Kyle’s Christmas Scavenger Hunt

It’s true that adventures are good for people even when they are very young. Adventures can get in a person’s blood even if he doesn’t remember having them.  ~Eva Ibbotson

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This year, I had grandiose plans for Kyle’s Christmas gift, but alas they fell through.  So I found myself scrambling for his gift.  Keep in mind, I was up against time constraints and a 15-year old who has way too much in terms of stuff.  I was at a loss for last minute Christmas gift ideas.  Reluctantly, I turned to the ever popular and safe bet, gift cards.  Yes, I buckled.  However, my gift cards were strategic.  I got him iTunes (which I found out he has Google play, so money took that place), a movie card, since he likes to frequent the movies with his friends, and a Seven Springs snowboarding gift card, something we haven’t done in the last couple of years, but something we’ve always done together.

Instead of simply handing the kid the gift cards, because where’s the fun in that, I got creative.  I wanted Kyle to work for his gifts, plus have a little adventure and fun.  I made Kyle a custom scavenger hunt.  Why not?  I make them all the time for Thrill of the Hunt, and I’ve yet to do one for Kyle.

The idea rocked!  At least from my perspective, and from the enthusiasm and smiles that radiated from Kyle’s face, I’d say my assumption was correct.

There’s so many different ways to create a scavenger hunt.  This one, I added a lot of items that mean something, heirloom furniture, inside jokes, Kyle’s dog and so on.  Truth be told, I had a blast creating the scavenger hunt, and I had an even better time watching Kyle go through it.

I started off making Kyle a Christmas card that was placed under the tree.  I knew he thought he was getting money or gift cards, he was correct, but not that easily.  The front of the card gave Kyle an overview of what was happening, that he had to follow the clues exactly, how many clues were given, and how many gifts:

Get ready for a Christmas adventure of fun & prizes
Follow 10 clues to find your gifts of all sizes
But be warned, follow the instructions to a T
Hints are few, your Christmas gift rewards are 3

Let’s get started.  Good luck Buddy!

On the inside of the card, I gave Kyle his first clue, which had multiple steps.

Clue#1

Venture out to see the ladies
Also stop by House of Hades
Collect the clues at each spot  
They’re hints for your next trot

The first part “ladies” is a joke in our household referring to our chickens in the chicken coop.  The second part “House of Hades” referred to the 4th book from Rick Riordan, Heroes of Olympus series.  Kyle was a big fan of the books.  Each location contained a clue, the chickens housed the clue – Bowl, and the book contained the other clue – Punch.

You got it.  Kyle had to look in our punch bowl, which was brought back from my parents when they lived in Germany while my Dad was in the service.  Our family tradition is to bring out the punch bowl every year for Thanksgiving and Christmas.  Over the years, Kyle has taken over the punch making responsibilities.

Clue number three was a blast, literally.  Dad just got me a new .12 gauge shotgun.  I figured I’d work it into the equation.  Plus, it’s been a while since Kyle shot a gun and I thought he might have a little fun blowing apart a milk jug.

Clue #3

Your next clue points to a gift
Remember backyard safety -be swift  
Any shotgun holds the key
Shoot the jug to set it free

In the backyard, I had a plastic milk jug filled with water and a clue floating inside (wrapped in a sandwich bag).  Kyle went straight toward the gun safe, pulled out my .12 gauge shotgun and shot at the jug, a few times for fun.  Once he was satisfied that the jug was pulverized sufficiently, he pulled out the clue Behind the guitar!  Not only did this location contain another clue, a rebus which was a little harder to solve, but he also received an iTunes gift card. 

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The answer to the rubus was a bit tricky, but I couldn’t make it too easy on my guy.

The answer was, Aunt Heather’s Gravy Boat.  I made the gravy boat out of clay when I was in high school.  Since that time the gravy boat, like the punch bowl has made its appearance at the holidays.  The gravy boat housed a black light.  I wrote messages and some clues in invisible ink along the way.  Kyle loved that!  It added another element of excitement and adventure to the scavenger hunt.

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Throughout the scavenger hunt, I included a Christmas ornament Kyle got my Dad in 2013, which held another clue hanging in the Christmas tree.  I included Kyle’s guitar, our punch bowl (mentioned above), a few books, a chess table built by my Grandpap Chester (a family heirloom piece, and Kyle and I like to play chess) and naturally Scooby, Kyle’s dog, who carried a clue around his neck.

Here’s the clue I placed around Scooby.  I didn’t place it on the dog until Kyle was close to the clue, for fear Kyle would jump ahead or worse, the dog would scratch it off.

 

Clue #5

Take a selfie with me Kyle!

Take me for a walk, let’s stop at the apple tree
Let’s take Seven, we’ll both run & be free

Kyle and I used to take the dogs (Seven is my dog) for walks all the time, and every Easter was spent in the orchard in the backyard collecting Easter eggs.  Kyle has also helped plant many of those trees on the property.  Not only was this location significant, but I also wanted to test Kyle’s tree knowledge.  He found it no problem.  Of course, I heard him ask my Dad which tree was the apple.  I had no problem with Kyle phoning a friend, so to speak.

In Kyle’s room, I hung one of my old snowboards as a shelf, and recently I added another snowboard to the wall.  Kyle and I have been snowboarding together since he was 4-years old, except for the last couple of years.

Clue #7

Under the Lamar, under the Ride
Another gift is found on the backside
For you & a friend to crush the slopes
You might have to show your friend the ropes

The one snowboard was a Lamar and my old snowboard was a Ride.  I got Kyle a gift card to Seven Springs for him and a friend.  I told Kyle I’d take him up alone so he could get his feet back on before going up with a friend, and I’d be tagging along.  Of course, I plan on riding the slopes, but I doubt I’d be welcomed with the young duo.

During the entire scavenger hunt, I had Kyle complete easy and difficult clues and challenges.   He even allowed me to shoot video clips of his excursion.  That really made my Christmas Eve day!  I’m sure Kyle won’t remember the gift cards or when he used them, but I’ll bet he’ll remember the scavenger hunt for ever.

Here’s my video montage of Kyle’s Christmas Scavenger Hunt adventure.

Great job Kyle!  I hope you enjoyed it.

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posted by auntheather in Books, Movies, Shows,Common Sense,Education & Learning,Family,Milestone,Observation & Imagination,Patience,Random Fun Facts and have No Comments

Happy Birthday Dad! 66-Years!

The best teachers impart knowledge through sleight of hand, like a magician.  Kate Betts

Happy Birthday Dad! January 16, 1951

Dad U Sonny Pap Gram Aunt Heather Piper

Dad, Uncle Sonny, Pap & Gram (plus a mystery person) at a mystery location during a mystery year.

Just to reiterate, Dad despises me talking about him online. (So don’t say anything)  I rarely do, at least he’s not the focus of most of my stories, except for today.

Dad’s added another digit to his age.  He’s still moving forward, a lot slower, but still going.  I couldn’t live without the old man.  It’s funny, I never realized it until recent times just how much Dad loves us, all of us.

Dad’s a unique individual, in more ways than one.  He truly loves us and always wishes the best for us in a selfless manner.  His heart is true.  He reminds me of my Pappy, Ryan and Kyle in that respect.  His definition of success isn’t the type of car a person drives or any other superficial means.  Nope.  His definition of a good person is how well they can shoot a gun.  (Half joking)  Dad looks at a person from the inside first, except when watching television, then he’s not so kind with his words.  I’m not saying Dad’s some holy person, not even close, but he is a decent guy.  A bit opinionated, and a many times irritating when he wants something done, but I’ll take that over someone who’s spiteful, materialistic and out for themselves any day.  I’m aware of Dad’s shortcomings and they’re trumped by his good qualities, in my opinion.

This past year we had a great hunting season.  I personally, had a record year, and Dad was excited about it.  Truly.  He’s so proud when I harvest a deer, I hear him telling EVERYONE.  Not only that, but when I’m a good shot and his friends witness it or even if they don’t, boy does Dad beam with delight.  He’s genuinely happy for me.

Dad & U Sonny on Ridge building grams house c.1953 Aunt Heather Piper

Dad & Uncle Sonny. Gram & Pap’s house being built on the ridge c. 1953

Before rifle season started, Dad went bow hunting and muzzle-loader.  I’m glad he has something he looks forward to doing and it keeps him moving.

As history dictates, we went hunting in New York, where I harvested a buck, and poor Dad didn’t see a single deer.  A week later, the Monday after Thanksgiving, we went hunting in Pennsylvania.  I filled most of my tags and Dad filled a couple.  The best part?  We had a great time together, especially sitting in a small tree stand with the big guy.  Sometimes he gets on my nerves and is a bit too serious, but other times he totally cracks me up.

During the hunting season, most of our conversations focus on Ryan and Kyle.  We all miss Ryan, but hunting season heightens Dad’s longing for his son.  That was their time together.  Every once in a while Dad would comment “Boy, Ryan would be enjoying himself”, or he’d say “I wish Kyle was here.”

We did more than hunt deer this year.  For the first time ever, I got to go pheasant (ringneck) hunting.  We had a blast!  When I was little, Dad used to bring home a pheasant periodically, so it’s not like I was unfamiliar with the birds but it was neat to be directly involved.  Dad and I went a couple of times and filled our limit of two birds each, both times.  Dad didn’t stop talking about it for weeks.  The first time we brought home our pheasants Kyle was home.  Without hesitation, Kyle helped up skin the birds.  Kyle wouldn’t gut them, but he did wash them out.  The best part of that day?  Kyle sat with me and Dad during the process and hung out, plus he learned the trait.  It was a nice time together.

Dad’s been doing a lot of goose hunting this year.  I joined him a few time and I know nothing would make him happier than if I’d go with him every day, but like I’ve told him, repeatedly, “I have to work.  I’m not retired.”  Occasionally, I sneak out but I can’t do it day in and day out like he wants to.  Even if I could, goose hunting doesn’t excite me that much.  Perhaps it’s because I’m not a fan of goose meat.  While we’re on it, I don’t even really like duck.

A funny trait about Dad?  He doesn’t look at himself as an old person.  In fact, he gets irritated with elderly people.  In many cases, they’re the same age as Dad!  Doesn’t that just crack you up?  I find such humor in Dad calling a person driving beside us “old”, when clearly they’re the same age.

One a side note, I have a funny story.  The other day I was walking through a store and this lady stopped me and asked if I was Ron Piper’s daughter.  Believe it or not, this has happened to me many, many times over the years.  She couldn’t remember my name, but she knew exactly who I was.  I’ve always been told I look like my Dad and more than not, I was told, in a negative way, that I act like him too.  I’m okay with that and I’m proud to be like Dad.  As it turns out, the lady was Shirley Achhammer, another relative.  How funny!

Happy Birthday old man.  Keep kicking and doing what you do!

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posted by auntheather in Common Sense,Family,Milestone,Reminiscing and have No Comments

Our Marvel(ous) Bond

It is better to arm and strengthen your hero, than to disarm and enfeeble your foe.  ~Anne Brontë

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Kiski Marching Band performing Nemesis! Kyle is the left trombone in the trio. 10/2016

Life contains those subtle special moments that can be easily overlooked.  Personally, I love those moments, and this one really melted my heart.  I’d thought I’d share.

I had Kyle this past Sunday.  Actually, I also spent last weekend with him too!  When I picked Kyle up he seemed a bit cranky, but even toned for the most part.  I didn’t make a big deal of his attitude because I was excited to spend the day with him and I chalked it up to being tired.

Honestly, we don’t get Kyle too often anymore, not like when he was kid.  Kyle spent a lot of time with us, more than half time.  When his presence graces us nowadays, I can’t stop smiling.  Just having Kyle around puts me in such a good mood (as long as his attitude is subsided).  I miss my busy little teenager.

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Me in Bella Italia Restaurant in Port Angeles, Washington 5/2012

Kyle didn’t really want to do anything in particular.  I offered to take him for a hike, rollerskating and to the movies, but he wanted to hang out, mostly to play video games on his phone.  Not my idea of a fun day, but we were both vegging on the couch and catching up on a little television.  Still a nice bonding time, especially since I wasn’t going to see Kyle until Thanksgiving since Dad and I were going hunting in New York this weekend.

First we started to watch Mysteries at the Museum.  One of my Sunday favorites.  I loved watching Kyle pause his game to give his full attention to the history taught in the form of a half hour show.  I can’t remember what other shows we watched, but it was a nice relaxing start to our day.  Eventually, we agreed upon Iron Man, especially since we caught it at the beginning.

I took Kyle to see all the Iron Man movies in the theater, in addition to most of the Marvel movies.  We’re both big fans of movies and we love our superheros.

Sadly, like an old person, I started to doze off, to be abruptly awakened by Kyle.  What happened?  Kyle spotted Stan Lee, as he always makes his cameo appearances in the Marvel movies.

It wasn’t a passing comment.  No. Kyle actually paused the movie, got up to walk over to me, to shake my shoulder to get my fullest attention.  He wasn’t malicious in any way, but excited to show me his findings.

In a daze, I blinked and followed his finger as he pointed toward the television screen.  It was perfectly paused on Stan Lee.  I smiled and said, “Yep, there he is!  Good eye buddy.”  Kyle continued, “Yep, I saw him in Dr. Strange too!”

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Kyle helping to plant the Paw Paw tree at Gigi & Pappy’s 12/6/2015

Okay.  Is this really a big deal?  Maybe not to anyone one else but it was to me.  You see, I’ve always told Kyle to look out for Stan Lee, ever since we started watching the Marvel movies.  I taught him who the man was and his importance to the comic book world.  I’ve always pointed the guy out with every movie and commercial.

Kyle’s gesture showed that he does pay attention to what I say, even though it’s pretty trivial.  It also showed me that our bond is still as tight as ever and he wanted to share his movie night with his friends with me.

Recently, Kyle went to the movies accompanied with his friends to watch Dr. Strange.  I wanted to take Kyle, as tradition dictates, but alas my teenager had other plans.  No problem. I get it.

It was really neat to hear Kyle excited to tell me he spotted Stan Lee in the Dr. Strange movie.  Why didn’t he tell me earlier when I asked him how the movie was and who he went to the movies with, when I picked him up?  My guess, he didn’t think of it and I think he was still rubbing sleep from his eyes.  Once he saw Stan Lee in Iron Man, it triggered his memory and Kyle couldn’t wait to tell me the news and interest we share together.

As silly as this story sounds, it really means something to me.  Kyle and I are still a team, and those roots can’t easily be ripped up and destroyed, by no one.  He’s a good kid and I’m very blessed to have him in my life!

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posted by auntheather in Books, Movies, Shows,Education & Learning,Family,Observation & Imagination,Patience,Video Games & Games and have No Comments

Vote Informatively – Election 2016

Love lights more fires than hate extinguishes.  ~Ella Wheeler Wilcox

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Trump House, Youngstown, PA 11/7/16

Our country is torn in two, at least that’s what it seems.  Although, is it really that different from the 1860 election when Abraham Lincoln ran against his opponents Breckinridge, Douglas and Bell?  As much as we honor and respect Abraham Lincoln, he didn’t carry the popular vote.  In fact, he wasn’t liked by many people, hence his assassination.  However, in present day, most agree he was honest and tried to do right by all the American people, even though it wasn’t acknowledged until much later in textbooks.  Did you know Abraham Lincoln was the first Republican president?  Fun fact.

Now, going back in time, to the near past, one that I remember when George W. Bush ran against Al Gore in the 2000 election.  That was a very close race.  I’d like to say the 2016 elections reminds me of those days, yet the attitude is very different.  We seem to be truly divided down the middle, desperately in need of a leader to unite us.  Although, that doesn’t worry me.  In fact, it seems to be a repeating theme throughout history, regarding war, politicians, laws and even art.  What is disturbing, are the verbal attacks, lies and disrespectful actions of our candidates, some more than others.  That’s what makes this election classless and in poor taste.

As a nation, we’ll never have one hundred percent agreement on anything.  That we can to agree on, that and the idea of simple respect needs to be practiced more.  I’m not talking about compromising morals and what’s right as to not hurt another person’s feelings.  I’m talking about being honest, direct, listening and reacting with truly good intentions and selfishness.  Tall order right?  It is, but not impossible.  I’m referring to our candidates toward each other, the candidates toward the people (becoming humble and always being honest and truly doing what’s right) and the people toward each other including the media.

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Trump House, Youngstown, PA 11/7/16

On a side note, when did reporters stop doing their research and begin believing rumors and bringing their own personal opinion to the front page?  Reporters need to be held accountable for their work and their actions.

What I’d like to see is a responsible and honest election.  Let the people actually have a vote.  I guess I should correct that statement with saying living people (yes that’s not such a subtle dig on those who are using our deceased to sway the election).  Again, disrespect for the deceased, the families, and our country as a whole.  I personally don’t like my rights being taken away by such actions.  We have an obligation to show the rest of the world what a true republic is and how good honest actions prevail.

After this election, history will be remembered slightly differently, depending on the outcome.  Why does time change a situation?  Or does it allow us to reflect and learn?  I remember studying history in school and being taken back when I learned our soldiers returning from the Vietnam War, after risking their lives for our country (most drafted), were treated with hatred and anger and disrespect.  Of course that’s not in fashion now, thankfully.  Now my next biggest question, is it because it’s what’s trendy and popular or because it’s what’s right?  Again, I see history repeating itself and instead of using common sense and respect, the trendy path is chosen.

Evey person has the ability to change history and change the path of our future.  Every person.  Every person has a choice to do what’s right and to think of others before themselves.  Everyone.  I’m not trying to sway anyone.  I’m simply asking people to stop lying for others, stop being deceitful, and stop any illegal actions (that’s another tall order), starting with election fraud.  Stop the violence when you don’t get your own way, stop the disrespect and start working together for a better future.  No one wins when hate takes the reins, but we all win when love is in our hearts and actions.

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Trump House, Youngstown, PA 11/7/16

On another side note, without pushing one candidate over another, I’ve found this pretty neat.  The Trump House in Youngstown, Pennsylvania.  Little old Youngstown, Pennsylvania has made major news for their part in the election.  Perhaps there’s a Hilary House somewhere, and if so I’d love to hear about it.  Since I’ve never heard of any, I’m going to focus on what I know, the Trump House.

I love the involvement and dedication that resulted in the Trump House.   The Trump House owners spent their personal money for signage and other promotional pieces to give away.  Now a days, people expect reimbursement or compensation for such actions.  The owners of the house are not pushy or loud, except the house decor certainly makes a statement.  They really want to educate and do what’s right for America.  That I can respect.  Again, perhaps there’s a similar place dedicated to Hillary.  If so, wonderful.

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Me & Kyle at the Sarah Palin rally Latrobe Airport 2012

How can anyone not appreciate the effort in this house?  I mean, they have a fifteen foot tall (I really don’t know how tall it is) picture of Donald Trump!  What a fun idea!  Since the creation of the house, they’ve had nonstop traffic from supporters visiting, getting their pictures taken and honking when passing by.  This is what America is about, freedom to choose and freedom of expression.  This is what makes election season exciting, certainly not all the bashing commercials on television, the radio and online.

Not to end on a negative note, but the Trump House has every right to decorate their building any way they want and to support any candidate they choose.  So why did they need to hire personal security to deter violence and vandalism at the Trump House?  Why did they get major backlash from people criticizing the way they spent their money?   This is what I’m saying, no respect.  If it was for Hillary, I’d think it was equally neat.

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Kyle standing in line at the Sarah Palin rally. I actually took him out of school to join me. Latrobe Airport 2012

The house has been dedicated to the Trump campaign since I believe this past summer, and it took the Tribune until this past week to write a story on them, hidden among the pages.  I always thought the news was to be unbiased, but all I’ve heard are opinions running through the media, for both sides, again some more than others.  The majority of the news is obviously swayed to one side.  It’s still not right and basic propaganda, similar to Hitler’s tactics.  He used media to reinforce his ideals and he targeted children and the younger generation who were easily swayed.  Let’s get back to practicing respect, the truth, common sense, and good old-fashion morals.

Personally, I’ve always tried to involve Kyle as much as I can with the news and historical milestones, trying to avoid negativity and reinforcing good moral decision making.  In the past, I’ve taken Kyle to rallies.  I’ve even taken him into the voter’s booth with me.  I wanted to show him what to expect when he got older, and I tried to set the example of having an educated and sincere voice.

On Sunday night I asked Kyle if he wanted to come vote with me this year.  I was denied before I even got it out of my mouth.  He’ll come around with his own opinions when he’s older.

I’ll certainly be voting tomorrow, and I’ll be praying tonight for God to lead this country in the right direction.

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posted by auntheather in Church,Common Sense,Education & Learning,News,Observation & Imagination,Patience and have No Comments

Pumpkin Guts, No Thanks

Tis “the witching time of night”, / Orbed is the moon and bright, / And the stars they glisten, glisten, / Seeming with bright eyes to listen  ~John Keats

Happy Halloween or technically All Hallows’ Eve!

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Kyle as Jay Jay the Jet Plane, courtesy of Aunt Nikki at Gigi & Pappy’s house 10/2004

Did you know the root word of Halloween is ”hallow,” meaning ”holy?”  The suffix “een” is an abbreviation of “evening.” Halloween refers to the Eve of All Hallows, the night before All Saints’ Day, the Catholic Holy day that honors saints of the past and a time to pray for those in purgatory.  Note, anyone can pray for anyone, living or deceased at any time.

Just for a reference, All Saints’ Day is November 1st, followed by All Souls’ day on November 2nd.

It’s always this time of year, when I see the pumpkin patches full of kids and Jack-O-Lanterns light up doorsteps and windows that I can’t help but chuckling.  Why?  Kyle of course.

When Kyle was a little tyke, and into the recent few years before he gave up on the trick-or-treating tradition, pumpkin carving was always an issue.  Really?  You bet!

Kyle loved searching the pumpkin patches for the perfect pumpkin.  He loved selecting the largest pumpkin imaginable, even when he couldn’t pick it up.  Kyle truly loved the idea of Halloween and the activities that went with the holiday, event pumpkin carving.  However, Kyle never liked the actual carving of a pumpkin, not in the slightest.  Don’t believe me or think I’m exaggerating?  Not even close.

Halloween activities were never the same since the first time Kyle tried carving his pumpkin.  The moments leading up to this point where exciting and eventful.  It was all good and dandy until Kyle actually put his hand in the pumpkin.  As standard protocol dictates, I cut the top off of our pumpkins, Kyle wanted me to have a pumpkin too, and I showed him how to pull the guts out.  Kyle looked down into the center of his pumpkin, sniffed it, and hesitantly reached in.  What happened next took me by surprise and honestly baffled me a bit.

Kyle proclaimed he didn’t like the feeling of the guts on his hand and he wouldn’t continue.  Instead, he looked toward me to do his dirty work for him, literally.  At first, I thought he was being silly, but he was serious.

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Kyle as Jay Jay the Jet Plane, Karen’s house 10/2004

After my shock wore off, I tried to work with Kyle and his pumpkin gut issue.  I gave him a long handled metal serving spoon to scrap the guts.  I thought this would get him past the beginning stages of the pumpkin carving activity and move him toward the actual carving fun.  Something I thought Kyle would enjoy.  Wrong.

Eventually, after I gutted my pumpkin, Kyle abandoned his and took ownership of my project.  He had a good time carving, but certainly not complete excitement like I was expecting.

Every year since, Kyle remembered that faithful day, and reiterated his disgust for pumpkin guts.  It really left an impression on him.  Kyle would prompt our pumpkin patch activity by telling me I had to gut his pumpkin.  Seriously!  Yes.  While walking through the pumpkin patch and making his selection, which always had to be bigger than mine, Kyle would state I was gutting his pumpkin for him.

Trying to get creative, I even had Kyle wear gloves one year, which worked out fine until his bare arms hit the side of the inner pumpkin wall and that ended that.  I should also add, Kyle never liked long sleeves, or cloths for that matter.

I even tried bribing him, yet he would not budge.

Another tradition is taking the seeds and roasting them with a little salt.  Kyle would not even entertain the idea of sorting through the pumpkin guts to retrieve the seeds.  He did eat the roasted pumpkin seeds, but that was about it.

Eventually, we would purchase pumpkins and Kyle would draw faces on them, and watch me carve my pumpkin.  Although, that didn’t really keep his interest for too long.  But I will say, Kyle loved watching the lit pumpkins sit on the porch banister at night.  Standing outside at night, staring upon the flicker light in the shape of a face would creep him out, but he loved it  That is, as long as someone stood with him.

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Kyle as Jay Jay the Jet Plane. 10/2004

This time of year makes me laugh out loud, every time I think of Kyle carving a pumpkin, or more accurately passing the carving buck.  Kyle was never shy about telling others about his pumpkin gut aversion.  Too funny!

As for the rest of the commercially celebrated Halloween celebration, Kyle adored.  The selecting a costume, getting dressed and receiving bag fulls of candy he could handle.

I say that, but there was a year that wasn’t exactly true.  The year when Kyle was Jay Jay the Jet Plane.  Would you believe Kyle wouldn’t put his costume on?  Why?  He thought he was going to take flight.  Seriously?  I’m not making this up.

My sister bought him that costume and it took a few attempts before he would put it on.  The first few Halloween activities we did that year, I had to walk around holding Kyle’s hand on my one side, while I carried his costume in the other hand.  That was one of those situations when I couldn’t stop laughing.  Eventually, he did wear the colorful costume, but it took a while, and I think it was after Halloween pasted.

My little guy, he has his quarks, which makes life interesting and fun.

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posted by auntheather in Cooking with Kyle,Education & Learning,Family,Observation & Imagination,Patience,Reminiscing and have No Comments

Adventures in San Diego On a Dog Scavenger Hunt

Reading is like thinking, like praying, like talking to a friend, like expressing your ideas, like listening to other people’s ideas, like listening to music, like looking at the view, like taking a walk on the beach.  ~Roberto Bolaño

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Mission Basilica in San Diego. What a great place & such history 9/10/16

Recently, I trekked across the United States from Latrobe, Pennsylvania to San Diego, California.  Why?  Thrill of the Hunt was hosting a scavenger hunt.  What an adventure!

On Saturday, September 10, 2016, Thrill of the Hunt hosted our very first public scavenger hunt in San Diego.  It was a dog scavenger hunt.  Yes, Thrill of the Hunt is going to new distances with our events and we’re really expanding, bringing our adventures to others.

How did the trip go?  Honestly, it was very stress free and actually relaxing.  Is this unusual?  Sure.  I mean keep in mind, planning an event and getting all the logistics in order prior to leaving is a challenge all it’s own.  Then, tack on making sure everything gets packed, arriving on location in good time, and getting acclimated to the area, plus dealing with any changes or roadblocks along the way, and making the event happen as best as possible is a huge task.  One I relish in.

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Sunset at Mission Beach, San Diego, CA 9/10/16

Usually, the first issue begins with me catching my plane on time.  Yes, believe it or not, that’s always an issue.  Is it because I’m naturally a late person?  No.  In fact, I’m notorious for being early.  Unfortunately, when flying, I always underestimate my departure time, or I run into unforeseen problems or literal roadblocks.

This time was different, I left with more than enough time and guess what happened?  Nothing!  No traffic, no getting lost, which does happen to me a lot, even though I know where I’m going, no plane delay, no suitcase lost, nothing.  I thought of everything, although I did forget the dog bowls to refresh the dogs, but the Bark Park had an actual water fountain for dogs.  Really?  Yes!

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The Bark Park at Westfield UTC Shopping Plaza for the dog scavenger hunt in San Diego, Ca. 9/10/16

We’re did I go?  I flew into San Diego.  The dog scavenger hunt was held at Westfield UTC shopping plaza.  I met the participants at the Bark Park and they maneuvered their way throughout the dog friendly shopping area.  It’s a lovely place with the store entrances in close proximity to one another and isolated from traffic. Perfect for dogs on the move.

Check out the pictures and videos from the dog scavenger hunt.  They’re a hoot!   Facebook  •  Pinterest  •  Youtube.

What else did I do while in sunny San Diego?  I didn’t have much time, but I did explore a little.  I went to Mission Beach, which was breathtakingly beautiful.  I loved the boardwalk (cement).  It stretched along the coast, with sandy beaches and crashing waves on one side, and houses, restaurants and retails stores on the other.  People on skateboards, bikes and some with dogs traveled up and down enjoying God’s handiwork.

Did I swim, go surfing, or jog while there?  No.  In fact, I didn’t realize I never packed my swimsuit and I forgot sunscreen.  I was so focused on the event, it never occurred to me that I’d have extracurricular time.  So I walked and walked up and down the coast until dark, watching the sun set Friday night.

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Mission Beach boardwalk, San Diego 9/10/16

After the dog scavenger hunt on Saturday, I was given a recommendation to visit Mission Basilica San Diego de Alcalá.  It’s the first Franciscan mission in The Californias, a province of New Spain.  Let me tell you, VERY COOL!  I even arrived in good time to tour around, hit the confessional, sit and pray, and then I attended mass, which incidentally they played a bunch of my favorite songs.   It was a very spiritually enhancing and refreshing experience.  I’ll admit, while I was praying for Kyle’s well-being, I wished he was there, knowing he’d be intrigued by the history and structure of the buildings and gardens.

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Mission Basilica in San Diego. Very spiritual place! 9/10/16

After church, I headed back to Mission Beach.  One could say, I was hooked, even though I’m not much of a beach person.  I stopped at a taco stand and ate my dinner sitting in the sand watching the waves roll in while the sun set.  I continued where I left off the night before, walking around, stretching my legs and enjoying the atmosphere until darkness fell.  I was going to stop in a pub for a drink, to relax and soak up more of the energy, but I didn’t want to push my luck.  After hours and packed bars on a Saturday night, plus an out-of-towner, seemed like a recipe for trouble.

By the time Sunday rolled around, it was time to pack and head home.

What books did I read?  One part about traveling that I absolutely love, beside the adventure of it all, is the time I get to read.  Usually, on any trip, especially one that involves an airplane, I read a book leaving and one coming home.  This trip was no exception.  I read The Girls by Emma Cline heading to San Diego.  I knew the book took place in California so I thought it appropriate.  Coming back, I read the Young Elites by Marie Lu.  This is a series, which I need to get the next book, and the third will soon be released.

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Mission Beach boardwalk. Lovely beach! San Diego, Ca. 9/10/16

Next year when I head out to San Diego, I’m going to be prepared and bring my swimsuit, sunscreen and maybe I’ll try a few surf lessons.  I’ve always wanted to learn.  Actually so did Kyle, when he was little.

I missed my little man.  Where was he?  He had a football game Friday night, and a band competition and practice all day Saturday, on their home field.  I wished I was there to cheer him on, but alas I was almost 2,500 miles away expanding Thrill of the Hunt into new territory.  I texted him on Saturday wishing him good luck, with no response.  I also texted and called him on Sunday before leaving, and again no answer.  I just wanted to hear how his weekend went and to tell him how much I love him before flying home.  Maybe one day Kyle will rejoin Thrill of the Hunt and we can travel together.

Kyle’s a great traveler, even at the age of fifteen.  We’ve trained him well, he’s been traveling since he was a little tyke, to either my sister’s in Virginia, New York for mom’s work, West Virginia to visit Casey, plus the trips Nicole and Kyle took.  Yep, he’s already a world traveler.

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Mission Beach … lovely sandy beach & white waters. Great beach! San Diego 9/10/16

Now for the funny story.  After everything is an adventure with me.  It’s actually only a funny for me, but I’ll share.  Being a Latrobe native, we don’t have many skateboarders around, it’s not a lifestyle like it is in San Diego.  While walking around the boardwalk, I’d hear the wheels and the clapping of decks from skateboard after skateboard.  Sure there were some roller blades and a lot of bikes, but equally as many skateboards.  Eventually, I paid attention to the people riding the skateboards.  More than not, I made a mental note that they were older people, with the exception of a few youngsters.  Then it dawned on me, Wait, I’m their age!  I do have this thing about me.  I seriously forget how old I really am.  That made me chuckle.  The noise was very soothing to me, taking me back to my childhood.

I had a great adventure and I look forward to the next.

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posted by auntheather in Books, Movies, Shows,Church,Education & Learning,Family,News,Thrill of the Hunt Scavenger Hunts,Travels and have No Comments

A Visit to Google Pittsburgh… Continued

My life is like tofu—it’s what gets added that makes it interesting.  ~Angela Johnson

Google Pittsburgh Tour 7-27-16 Aunt Heather Piper

Our Google Pittsburgh Tour. Kyle, Duncan, Barb & Me Bakery Square 7/27/16

Last Wednesday, I took Kyle and his friend on A Visit to Google Pittsburgh to tour the facility as a birthday surprise.  Now I want to share my surprises and the details of the Google offices!

Yes, I knew the office would be Googled up, and fun, and unique, but what I saw blew me away.  First, I didn’t realize the size of Google Pittsburgh.  They employ about 500, and are planning on doubling that with the expansion of the new building.  Perhaps I had it in my head this office was the same office they originally occupied near Carnegie Mellon University (CMU).   Not that I was ever there, but I knew it was smaller.  Things have changed.

Google Pittsburgh is located in Bakery Square in Pittsburgh at the old Nabisco plant.  The office consists of seven floors of sheer fun.  There are no other words to describe it.  In addition to all the branding, which Google does it right, and the attention to detail, they’ve really honored Pittsburgh with the themes and designs.  Each floor has a different theme.  While I don’t remember which floor was which, and I don’t remember everything I saw, I’d like to give a general overview.

Floors

Kyle at Google Pittsburgh Candy bowl 7-27-16 Aunt Heather Piper

Kyle helping himself to the candy bowl at Google Pittsburgh Bakery Square 7/27/16

As I mentioned each floor has a different theme.  There are seven floors total.  When you arrive in the Google lobby, you’re on the seventh floor and once you pass a secure door, the awesomeness is reveled.

One floor pays homage to Nabisco.  Each room is named for one of their products.  They even have a huge original mixer on the floor they kept from the old plant.  It sits near the pool table and pinball machine.

Another floor is dedicated to Kennywood.  There’s an actual roller coaster car in the lobby facing down the stairwell, enough said!  While walking about, they’ve incorporated ramps and railings and Kennywood styled signs to give it the feel of being in Kennywood.  It worked for me!

Another floor is dedicated to the bridges of Pittsburgh, again naming the rooms for each bridge.  There are design elements everywhere representing our beloved bridges.

One floor has the parks and trails theme, with bamboo dividers, rough cut wood paneling and total nature theme.  I mean they even have a live tree stretching up through one of the stairwells that connects two floors interrupted by an occupied floor.  Me coming from a family of loggers and woodworkers, I fell in love with that idea instantly.  I’d love to have a live tree for Thrill of the Hunt one day.

One floor captures the essence of our tunnels with hallways resembling the archways of a tunnel, the textured walls of cement and even the lighting gives you the feel of the Fort Pitt Tunnel or the Squirrel Hill Tunnel.  As you’re walking through the hallway, you almost feel like the cityscape of Pittsburgh should appear before your eyes at the end.

I wish I could remember the other details of the themes and the floors, perhaps it’ll come back to me.  I was in complete aw during the entire tour.

“Cafeteria”

As I mentioned before with A Visit to Google Pittsburgh, the cafeteria is a huge beautiful space with snazzy chairs, booths, real plates and silverware, and food stations.  All complementary for all employees and visitors.  They have a quality chef on payroll with a full kitchen staff.  Google doesn’t take this job lightly.  I heard it’s no easy task becoming a chef for Google.

Google Pittsburgh Roller Coaster ride 7-27-16 Aunt Heather Piper

Duncan, Kyle, me & Barb in the roller coaster on the Kennywood floor at Google Pittsburgh Bakery Square 7/27/16

In the corner of the kitchen they grow select fresh vegetables and herbs, to be used by the kitchen or the employees can help themselves.  One the roof of one of the levels, they even have laying chickens and more herbs growing.  Yes, real chickens someone takes care of and picks the eggs.  All the fresh ingredients are used in making the grub.  Great idea!  In fact, every food item at each station is labeled with the ingredients.  They’re even color coded according to taste and nutritional value.  The goal is to feed the employees healthy food, without it appearing or sounding healthy.

They have stations for hot foods and cold.  The kitchen staff is even on hand during the lunch hours to mix up your personal salad or serve your hot meals.  You can help yourself to fresh fruits, vegetables, water infused with a variety of healthy organic ingredients, desserts or even simply peanut butter and jelly.  They’ve got it all!  And it’s all unlimited for zero dollars!

The area is spacious and clean and very inviting.

During the tour we walked past not one, but several smaller kitchens and coffee shops scattered throughout.  You’re never more than a few feet away from a kitchen stocked with a variety of drinks (healthy and not so much), snacks, cereals and so on.  The kitchen staff stocks those smaller kitchens and coffee shop style areas of the building every day.  The Google employees are seriously hooked up.

No employee ever has to worry about bringing their lunch or snacks.  Google is also ensuring its employees are eating a lot healthier, at least that’s the goal.  It’s a proven fact that individuals who eat healthier are more alert, think better, have more energy and in turn can give back to their job.  Plus, Google just removed a major stress out of the day, what to eat?

Upon entering the lobby into the front desk area, I did notice (how could anyone miss it) a huge candy bowl.  Again, it’s a help yourself area.  When we walked in, Kyle immediately helped himself to some candy.  I gave him an “are you kidding?” look stating, “Did you ask before you helped yourself?”  His response?  “No, it’s here for anyone to eat.”  Trying to ensure he always uses good manners, I said, “Still, you should always ask first and don’t assume.”

Google even holds cooking classes in their test kitchen area for the employees.  They sometimes bring in celebrity chefs.  Wow!

Details

Google Pittsburgh lobby with Kyle Duncan Barb 7-27-16 Aunt Heather Piper

Kyle, Duncan & Barb in the lobby at Google Pittsburgh Bakery Square 7/27/16

During our tour, Andrew, our tour guide, pointed out little corners of the offices, and side conference rooms to be used by anyone who needs a change of pace from their desk, or to meet up with fellow co-workers to discuss work.  It seemed like at every turn there was a sitting area or a mini escape from the daily grind.

While walking past a cubical section of the floor, watching our Google workers hard at making our lives searchably easy, Andrew pointed out a large hammock / jungle gym structure hovering over a corner of the work space.  He took us up there.  It was literally a huge hammock, suspended a floor above for anyone to sit and relax, take a nap or stretch your legs.  It lead to another private corner with a massage chair.

Speaking of massages.  They have a massage therapist on staff as another perk.  Another great idea!

Keeping with the theme of relaxation and exercise, in yet another area, they have a room with walking treadmills overlooking Bakery Square.  The employees can plug in and work while putting on mileage.  Although, traveling through the offices will certainly give you extra steps on your pedometer.

They have a couple lecture halls to keep up with continued education and to introduce new visitors, staff members and such.  Since they have so many visitors, they have a room containing several washers and dryers for anyone to use, especially for those out of town guests.  They’ve thought of everything!  Google is certainly very considerate.

Google even has their own tech support.  Sure that would make sense since they have not only enough computers for each employee, plus.

A few additional perks include, a fully equipped gym, a music room to jam out at the end of a day, and naturally it’s a dog friendly office.

Stories

While on tour, after walking through a vault style door, we came to a hallway sporting an enlarged image covering the entire wall.  Andrew shared one of his Google experiences with us.  It was a distant shot of a building with railroad tracks in the foreground.  The building held special significance to Andrew.

Google Pittsburgh lobby sign 7-27-16 Aunt Heather Piper

This starts our tour of Google Pittsbugh Bakery Square 7/27/16

One of his first visits to Google Pittsburgh, when the office was near CMU, he said he came to the front desk, who asked him what size t-shirt.  While the front desk chick had her back to Andrew, she placed the t-shirt over her shoulders and was messing with something in the corner.  He said she all of a sudden turned around pointing Nerf guns at him and said “This office isn’t safe.”

Apparently, a few times a day the trains passed and literally shook the entire building for three minutes.  In that time, no one can get any work done.  So instead of the disturbance being a hindrance, they took advantage of the downtime with Nerf wars.  I love it!  Andrew even said that as per Amazon, a person is only permitted to purchase so many of the same product, for fear of that person reselling the product.  His friend is forever banned for life from buying Nerf products on Amazon because of their daily recreation.

Andrew also told us that Google employees get credit for visiting other data centers and offices, when they swipe their badge.  What do they get?  Simply a virtual trophy or some sort.  I love how Google encourages its employees to go above and beyond, in a fun and productive way.  Now that’s a vision the company mastered.

Keep in mind this is all just in Google Pittsburgh.  Can you imagine the headquarters?  Which is now on my list to tour.  I thoroughly enjoyed by visit to Google Pittsburgh.  They have taken their success and done right by their employees and customers alike.  Great job Google!  I’d love to build a scavenger hunt in any Google office.

I can’t wait for Kyle’s next birthday.  It’s a big one, sixteen!

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posted by auntheather in Education & Learning,Family,News,Observation & Imagination,Random Fun Facts,Thrill of the Hunt Scavenger Hunts and have No Comments

Happy Birthday Kyle! 15 Years!

I have accepted fear as part of life – specifically the fear of change… I have gone ahead despite the pounding in the heart that says: turn back….   ~Erica Jong

Kyles birthday celebration at Google Pittsburgh 7-27-16 Aunt Heather Piper

We celebrated Kyle’s 15th birthday at Google Pittsburgh, Bakery Square 7/27/16

Turning the page to another year, I’m happy to arrive at my little man’s fifteenth birthday!  As Kyle ages, one of my biggest fears is the person he will become.  However, in actuality, he’s already been a huge success and I couldn’t be more proud.

What stresses me about his character?  You see, when he’s with the family, he’s a bit of a smarty pants, curt, sarcastic (which I appreciate), stubborn and even a bit negative.  Granted, this isn’t a constant, and it seems to be more heightened when he hit his teenage years, but a fear regardless.  I don’t want Kyle to act disrespectful with his friends, friends’ parents, teachers or even strangers.  I don’t ever want Kyle to be labeled as such (I’m not concerned about the stubbornness unless it’s a hindrance), and I want him to be happy and have friends and experience life with love in his heart and a positive outlook.  However, while investigating Kyle’s behavior, I’ve been proudly informed time and time again, he’s a kind, polite, and a typical teenage boy. (Yes, I do constantly check up, things change and quickly.)

How do I know?  Simply, I ask and pay attention.  Really?  Yes, I do care for Kyle that much that I take the time to inquire, and I’m not talking about a passing comment.  When I get the chance to speak with a parent Kyle recently spent time with, I ask how he’s acted.  Usually, you can get a feeling when a parent is telling you the straight up truth or whether they’re sugar coating.  Asking the right questions also helps.  While chaperoning the band, I watch from a distance.  Again, my observations with the way he interacts with friends and fellow band members shows a lot about Kyle’s outside behavior and the real person he is.

You see, I was told once that teenagers need a means to get it out.  They’re hormonal and finding themselves, and they need a safe place to act out and dump everything from the inside, out.  I was also told a child will only do this with those he loves and is one hundred comfortable with.  Yeah for us. (sarcasm)

What would I do if I saw appropriate behavior?  Tell him.  As his aunt, and anyone who loves and respects him, it’s our job to call him out.  Perhaps he’s not aware of his actions, or if he is, it’s our job to correct bad behavior.  It’s in his best interest to shape into the person he will one day be. I know no ones perfect, we’re all  human, but it doesn’t mean we don’t try.

I am very proud of Kyle.  He’s always been my inspiration, and even if he longer believes it, we’re still a team.  I’ve always got his back no matter what.

Happy Birthday buddy!

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posted by auntheather in Education & Learning,Family,Milestone,Observation & Imagination,Patience and have No Comments

A Visit to Google Pittsburgh

Being a nerd, which is to say going too far and caring too much about a subject, is the best way to make friends I know.  ~Sarah Vowell

Google Pittsburgh Tour 7-27-16 Aunt Heather Piper

Andrew Widdowson, Barb Planinsek, Kyle Piper, Duncan Jones & Me at Google offices in Pittsburgh at Bakery Square 7/27/16

This past Wednesday, I wanted to surprise Kyle and do something for his birthday, which is tomorrow.  Summer is nearly over, especially when Kyle begins bandcamp and I’ve hardly seen my little vacationer since school let out.  This weekend he’s heading to Virginia, deep south with my parents and family friends to go catfishing, at night.  (Actually, they left a few hours ago.)  Skirting around all the plans, Wednesday felt like the most opportune time to spend a day with Kyle.  Done.

With the help of a family friend, Barb Planinsek, we made arrangements to tour the Google offices in Pittsburgh.  You see Barb’s nephew, Andrew, is employed by Google and chose to work in Pittsburgh this summer. (Nephews are the best!)  He travels all around the world for his job, but is headquartered in Mountainview, California.  Of course I couldn’t pass up this opportunity.

Unbeknownst to Kyle, the plans for Wednesday were made months prior, when I met Andrew at the Fishing Derby in May.  Naturally, upon hearing who Andrew’s employer was, I instantly thought, Touring Google Pittsburgh would be a great experience for Kyle and a perfect birthday activity!  I’m not one hundred percent sure, but I think I was right.  Although, trying to get excitement out of that kid is hard, but by golly I saw it during our tour!

Unfortunately, because of everyone’s schedules, Wednesday was planned on Tuesday.  Not ideal but it worked out.  My goal was to surprise Kyle with an experience most don’t have, give him an educational activity he’d enjoy, and begin networking him for his future.  Bonus!

Kyle & Duncan at Google Pittsburgh 7-27-16 Aunt Heather Piper

Kyle & Duncan tour the Google offices in Pittsburgh as a birthday surprise! 7/27/16

Andrew kindly moved his day around to accommodate us.  Barb and I were on board from the beginning.  Now came the hard part, Kyle.  I tried calling, to let him know I arranged a surprise for him, but he never answered the phone. I thought about texting, and chose another route.  Initially, I was toying with the idea that Kyle might enjoy the experience more with a friend.  During the planning process, I got a hold of Jennifer, Kyle’s good friend Duncan’s mother.  (If you can follow that.)  She was more than happy to lend us her son for the day.  In fact, Duncan was in on the secret and helped me align Kyle.  Plus, Duncan was excited about the adventure too.

All day Tuesday, Jennifer kept me posted to Kyle’s responses to Duncan.  Duncan called Kyle and said he was coming over Wednesday morning around 7:30 am for a surprise.  I was told Kyle’s response was, “If I’m getting up early I want to know why.”  Boy is that kid stubborn!  Duncan remained steadfast and never told Kyle who was picking them up, and what they were doing.  Eventually, later in the day, I was told Kyle was intrigued about the surprise.  I believe he was excited because when I showed up on Wednesday, he was ready to roll.  He even tried to hide a smile from his lips, though I’m quick and I saw it!  I too was grinning from ear to ear ready to jump out of my skin.

Heading west, we eventually made our way to Bakery Square in Pittsburgh.  We stopped and had breakfast, figuring the boys would be hungry before our ultimate activity.  We actually had time to waste, since I didn’t know what traffic was going to be like, and we were so close to Shadyside, we headed to the area for some exploration.  What did the boys do with their freedom to shop and money in their hands?  They played Pokemon Go.  At least I got Kyle out moving around and he seemed to be in a pretty good mood.

Duncan & Kyle playing Pokemon Go in Shadyside 7-27-16 Aunt Heather Piper

Duncan & Kyle playing Pokemon Go in Shadyside before our Google Pittsburgh tour 7/27/16

Once we made our way back to Bakery Square and entered the lobby, Kyle read the list of companies on the elevator wall, while I told the guard we were heading to the seventh floor.  Even Kyle couldn’t miss the bright bold letters that read “Google”, seventh floor.  Then, suddenly without warning it happened again.  True happiness in the form of a smile left Kyle and was spotted!  Kyle’s smirk is like the elusive Sasquatch, it has been rumored to make its appearance and then vanish before your eyes.  Now I can say I was a first hand witness!  The facial gesture was something between ornery, knowing the secret, and being truly excited.  It was at that moment, I was honestly happy.

We get to the lobby and naturally I want to start snapping pictures.  Kyle wasn’t pleased about this part of our trip, but complied with minimal resistance.

Andrew met us at the front door and passed out our name tags, while I did the formal introductions.  Would you believe Kyle didn’t remember meeting Andrew at the Fishing Derby?  I made it a point to introduce him and of course his employer.  That kid cracks me up.

Andrew did a great job with the tour!  He shared his own personal stories and fun facts about Google, especially Google Pittsburgh.  I knew Andrew was the perfect tour guide, but what I didn’t expect is what I saw in the offices.  Wow.  In a separate post, I’ll explain later.  You would not believe.  Now it was my turn to be surprised.

Once the tour came to a close it was lunch time.  We joined Andrew in the “cafeteria” which resembled an upscale restaurant, with stations of gourmet food, real plates and utensils, a variety of infused waters, and restaurant quality tables and chairs, and booths.

Our lunch was fantastic!  Plus, it was all free.  Google has a full kitchen staff, including a quality chef to prepare these, nutritious (mostly aside from the desserts), delicious meals for all its employees as a perk.  There was so much, Andrew had to walk us around and show us everything, including the corner of the room where they grew some fresh vegetables and herbs.  Seriously?  Yes!

Not to downplay the tour, which is impossible, but the best part of the day was our conversation during lunch.  Andrew continued telling us about his job and sharing stories, always projecting enthusiasm.  You can tell he genuinely loves what he does, and is proud of his accomplishments at Google, which he should be.  Kyle and Duncan even stepped out of their comfort zone to ask questions, but mostly they listened.

Kyles birthday celebration at Google Pittsburgh 7-27-16 Aunt Heather Piper

We celebrated Kyle’s 15th birthday at Google Pittsburgh, Bakery Square 7/27/16

After we ate lunch, we sang Happy Birthday to Kyle and celebrated with cupcakes.  On Tuesday, during the planning stages, I ordered cupcakes from a local bakery and had them delivered for another little surprise twist.  I knew we were eating lunch there and I thought it would be fun to celebrate Kyle’s fifteenth birthday at Google Pittsburgh.  Yes, I even brought candles!  (Although, I forgot the matches, which Barb reminded me of when we were in Shadyside.  I bummed a pack from a smoker who worked in a bar.)

On a side note, I didn’t realize there are roughly five hundred employed in Google Pittsburgh.  I was going to order a sheet cake, thinking we’d share with everyone in the office.  Nope.  Besides, they’re well stocked with sweet treats, I’m sure they didn’t miss the cupcakes.

During the course of the Google experience, I noticed Kyle and Duncan were never distracted by their phones or video games (at least not that I was aware of).  They listened to Andrew and seemed interested in what he was saying, even during lunch.  I think the day was a success.  Now I’m starting to make plans for Kyle’s next birthday.  It’s a big one, his sixteenth.

After we said our goodbyes, we headed to Station Square to get on a Ducky Tour of Pittsburgh, keeping with the theme.  Unfortunately, the next ride was booked up.  I did make reservations the day prior, but I cancelled for fear we might not make the departure time.  I didn’t want to rush us out of Google.  It was a hot day and I could tell the boys had enough anyway.  We headed home.  It didn’t take them long to fall asleep.

On a side note, besides giving Kyle a memorable experience, there was just an equally great part to the adventure.  It was rubbing our personal tour of Google in my sister’s face, and continuing my claim to the coolest aunt!  At least that’s what I told her.

I hope Kyle and Duncan had a great day.  Happy Birthday Kyle!

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posted by auntheather in Education & Learning,Family,Milestone,News,Observation & Imagination,Video Games & Games and have No Comments

Dealing With Loss

What we remember from childhood we remember forever – permanent ghosts, stamped, inked, imprinted, eternally seen.  ~Cynthia Ozick

Honestly, I’ve been toying around with this blog idea since last week.  The Aunt Heather blog may come from my perspective, but the stories are really for Kyle.  These accounts of Kyle’s life from my point-of-view are more important now than ever.  Since Kyle’s fully embraced his teenage years, I’ve seen less of him.  I always want Kyle to know how important he is, and not having him by my side is my own personal loss.

It is with a very heavy heart I talk about Kyle’s friend, fifteen year old Nick Ursiny.  He passed away last Sunday, June 19, 2016 from an accidental gun shot wound to the head.  The incidence happened on Friday, June 17th around 5:00 pm.

Kyle called on Sunday to tell us he was going to the hospital to visit his friend, that’s when we heard the news,  Shortly after speaking with Kyle, we received the news Nick passed away.  I spoke to Kyle on the phone, and naturally he seemed a little distraught.  I could heard the tears swelling in his eyes, which instantly broke my heart.  Not only for the pain Kyle was facing, and at such a young age, but for the family and all of Nick’s friends.

When I heard about the incidence, it really hit home with me.  My family target shoots pretty frequently, for fun and in preparation for hunting season, and Kyle’s been apart of that tradition since he was a little tyke.  My heart broke for Kyle, yes because of a tragic loss of his friend, but also because of Kyle’s reality.  Unlike some, he knows the sound, the smell, the feel of a fired weapon.  He knows first hand the damage it does, at least with respect to hunting.  Kyle’s awareness of this accident is so much more acute than many of his fellow students, those who have never fired a weapon.  I couldn’t imagine dealing with that situation, and the complete grief and feeling of accountability.

These thoughts have been rushing through me all week.  It’s weird how that depression from a very real experience of loss creeps back, and settles into your soul, even when you’re not completely aware.

Nick was in Kyle’s class and he was also a member of the band.  Even during my chaperoning experiences, I personally didn’t know Nick, nor his family, but I know the helplessness and sorrow that’s overcome them.  And worse, I know the road they’ll be facing and the healing process, which does not get easier as time passes, they”ll only learn to adjust.

The band visited the funeral home last night as a group.  I did reach out to Kyle and ask if he wanted me to go to support him.  His text response?  “I’m fine.”  Okay.  I know everyone handles grief in their own way, and I respect that.  I was still going to go, but I wanted to give Kyle his space, and let’s face it, that would have been hard even for the toughest of people.  Instead, my thoughts and prayers were focused on that family and Nick.

Accidents do happen, no matter how minor or major, even though you try to avoid them.  It’s such a shame, this accident cost the life of such a young promising person.  If anything else, I hope children and adults alike, learn from this story and are more careful.  I don’t know the details behind the accident, but addressing safety is always a good practice.

God speed to Nick’s friends and family.  Rest in peace Nick!

I grabbed a few screen captures of online stories, for reference.

Full Obit Aunt Heather Piper June 2016

Kiski Facebook post Aunt Heather Piper

News Article Aunt Heather Piper 6-18-16

News Aunt Heather Piper 6-20-16News Article Aunt Heather Piper 6-20-16

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posted by auntheather in Church,Common Sense,Family,Hunting & Fishing,News,Observation & Imagination,Patience and have No Comments

Escape Room Experience

Shut your eyes and see.  ~James Joyce

Escape Room Latrobe 5-29-16 Aunt Heather Piper

Me, Kyle & Aunt Nikki at Escape Reality in Latrobe, escape room. We nearly had it… 5/29/16

I’m a little late in telling about our escape room experience two weekends ago, but I believe it’s never too late to tell a good story.

Why am I so late?  Between Thrill of the Hunt, my garden, the bees, and just keeping up on every day life, the hours are limited and the days run together.

On May 28th I had the Dog Gone! Scavenger Hunt in Winchester, Virginia.  It was a great event!  Shortly after wrapping up, I headed back to Latrobe, knowing my sister came home and Kyle was hanging out for the weekend.  My parents were camping, so it was an eventful weekend of the three of us.

Saturday night Nicole, Kyle and myself went to see X-Men: Apocalypse.  Nicole wanted to see Captain America: Civil War, however I took Kyle the weekend prior, which was his second time seeing the movie anyway.  Regardless, we had a nice time.

Now the big highlight of the weekend, Sunday, Nicole made reservations for us at Escape Reality in Latrobe.  You know those increasingly popular facilities that create a mystery to solve, and riddles and puzzles to figure out, in order to escape a locked room?  None of us had ever participated in an escape room, and certainly not in Latrobe.  Why not?

At this particular facility, six people were permitted in a group.  No one else signed up to join our trio, so the pressure was on.  We had the room to ourselves!  They had two different experiences, The Discovery or The Experiment.  We chose The Experiment, whereas we were captured by a doctor who spent his life trying to find a cure for the common cold.  Sounds good!

Four square check in Aunt Heather Piper 5-28-16

This was my check in on Four Square when we went to the movies… I thought this was hilarious! 5/28/16

Upon arrival and check in, we were given safety instructions and basic overall goals of the event.  They informed us no one has yet to escape the room without the assistance of clues.  During our hour long mystery experience, we were permitted to ask for clues to move us along.  How did we ask?  Simply by saying, “We need a clue.”  Each room is equipped with security cameras, as well as a monitor.  The wall mounted monitor displays the remaining time through a countdown.  It also communicates with the participants by typing messages to us or giving us clues.  The monitor also keeps a tally of the clues requested and those left.  I believe we were permitted to ask for six different clues.

Upon entering the relatively gloomy windowless room,  I immediately felt like I was placed in our story.  It was fairly chilly and almost creepy.  The facility stated that anything not bolted down is permitted to be moved and investigated and used for clues.  Great.

Surprisingly, Kyle wasn’t shy about digging in a getting started.  He was the first to really go to town, opening up drawers and digging through papers.  Nicole and I simply laughed at his sudden enthusiasm.  Prior to arriving he was very blasé and didn’t seem to care about hanging out with his aunts.  He was also very adamant about his plans later in the day, the typical Kyle.  Well, all that changed the minute we were locked in the room and the clock started ticking.

Honestly, I was the one who wasn’t aggressively looked through the supplied material.  I felt like I was prying in someone’s person stuff and it took me a while to get past that aspect.  Once I did, I was totally on board.

At first we didn’t really work as a team, but instead scattered independently trying to find the first clue or something that pointed toward a clue.  Kyle surprised us by literally crawling all over the floor, digging in every drawer, and even pulling out a variety of coins from a bowl and counting the change to see if the total dollar amount was a clue.  He was on a mission and he did a great job!  Kyle was able to look at the room from a different perspective that scored us our first major clue, a notebook of clues hidden under the desk.  Nicole and I looked at each other with wide eyes and the biggest surprise ever.  The funny part?  Kyle missed the clues leading him to the notebook, he only found the leather bound note pages stuffed under the desk.  While he was down there digging under the desk, I commented, “You look like your in National Treasure.”  Kyle didn’t care, he was focused.

Eventually, we found a few more clues that lead us to others and others.  Kyle scored us with another major breakthrough, without the aide of a previous clue.  He actually found words written in invisible ink on the baseboard around the room!  Seriously!   Among the phrases were missing letters, which contained letters to another clue.  Soon we opened a lock box that housed the black light.  A little late, but the fun of turning out the lights and using the black light to read the glow-in-the-dark letters was worth it.  It really made the experience and Kyle beamed with excitement.

At one point there were two lock boxes with four digit number combinations.  We found a four digit number that we hoped would unlock one of them.  Kyle tried the one lock and I the other.  However, due to Kyle’s due diligence, we realized that even with the correct lock combination, I still couldn’t open a lock.  After Kyle checked my work and realized I failed the test, I got the famous Kyle eye roll and ornery grin.  That’s my buddy!  Apparently, I’m lock challenged too.

I swear the entire time Nicole was stressed out and couldn’t handle the countdown of the clock, while Kyle was anxious and very energetic.  Those two cracked me up.  Eventually, we began working as a team, as we found more clues and answers were revealed.  That was exciting, getting closer to solving the riddles.

Did we escape?  Nope.  We were told we were about half way, using all six of our clues.  At the end, they asked us if we wanted to know the answer.  In unison, all three of us said, “NO!”  Actually, at first Nicole asked, “How often do you update the rooms?”  When they commented, “About once a year.” we chose to make plans to come back, take on the challenge and figure it out ourselves.

One the way home, we even recapped our discoveries and how we came to them, committing the event to memory to be later called upon.

Everyone was very nice and energetic.  I was impressed how they created the clues and guided us from one clue to the next.  They were very mindful of details, which really made the experience.  I hope we turn this into a yearly tradition, if not more often.  Maybe we can start hitting up different locations.

Nicole and I agreed that Kyle was the biggest surprise.  He basically mopped the floor, and really dove in without reservation.   I highly recommend trying an escape room.  Being a scavenger hunt enthusiast, I love solving puzzles and the adventure of it all.  I’d love to incorporate an escape room to one of my scavenger hunts.  Maybe in the future.

All that fun spoiled me.  The following weekend Kyle didn’t grace us with his presence at all.  I know he wanted to do his own thing, but I do miss him terribly when I don’t see him.  Maybe now that summer is upon us and school is out, he’ll surprise us by wanting to do more, or not.

posted by auntheather in Books, Movies, Shows,Common Sense,Education & Learning,Family,News,Observation & Imagination,Patience,Thrill of the Hunt Scavenger Hunts,Video Games & Games and have No Comments

Hello Mary Kay Andrews!

The meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances: if there is any reaction, both are transformed.  ~C.G. Jung

Mary Kay Andrews Book Signing 5-22-16 Aunt Heather Piper

Me & Mary Kay Andrews book signing for The Weekenders Great lady! Oakmont, PA 5/22/16

I love meeting authors.  Who doesn’t? (perhaps none readers, maybe?)  Especially ones I’ve followed and are very familiar with their work, not to down play meeting new and upcoming authors.  Nope, that’s a different kind of fun, the finding of a new book, a new author, especially one unheard of in the mainstream, and becoming one of their original fans and spreading the word on their new work.  On the other hand, meeting accomplished authors carries an intrigue and excitement with the encounter.  Plus, it tends to carry a celebrity status.  I’ve met a few authors, some mainstream and some nearly unheard of (not as many as I’d like), and they were all really amazing and down to earth people, just like my newest encounter.

Let’s talk Mary Kay Andrews.  She’s a New York Times Bestselling Author, of Hissy Fit, as well as other novels.  She’s also the author of one of my favorites, Summer Rental.  Currently, she’s on her book tour promoting her 24th novel, The Weekenders.

I was introduced to Mary Kay Andrews by a good friend of mine, Kelly Berger.  Yep, she was shopping and came across one of her books, and was instantly drawn to the idea of a story taking place at the beach.  Kelly’s a HUGE beach fan, especially the areas around Hilton Head, Cape Hatteras and the Outer Banks.  I don’t have to tell you, Kelly read Summer Rental and was an instant fan, purchasing all published pieces by Mary Kay Andrews.

Book Signing at MLB Mary Kay Andrews 5-22-16 Aunt Heather Piper

Mary Kay Andrews during a Q &A session at Mystery Lovers Bookstore in Oakmont, PA  5/22/16

Since Kelly and I have always swooped books, and discussed authors and new releases, it was only a matter of time before Mary Kay Andrews would remain a staple on my bookshelf, too.  Kelly and I mostly have similar tastes when it comes to reading material, although her interest stops shy of fantasy.  Summer Rental happened to be a story fit for both of our personalities, and once I’m hooked on an author, I’m hooked.

I met Kathy Hogan Trocheck, a.k.a. Mary Kay Andrews this past Sunday, May 22 at the Mystery Lovers Bookshop in Oakmont. (514 Allegheny River Blvd. Oakmont, PA 15139).  What a cute little bookstore!

The day started out rainy and kind of ugly, you know a typical Pittsburgh day, perfect for staying inside and getting acquainted with an accomplished author.  Since I had Kyle, I thought this was the perfect opportunity for him to meet an author too.  I didn’t think it mattered if he read her works or not.  At least that was my thinking.  Kyle had a different opinion.  I guess it would have been a better time for him if he knew the author, but regardless it was a good experience.

Mary Kay Andrews The Weekenders 5-22-16 Aunt Heather Piper

My signed copy of The Weekenders by Mary Kay Andrews. 5/22/16

All the ladies who showed up were fantastic!  I enjoyed the company as much as I did the purpose of my visit to MLB.  Mary Kay Andrews discussed The Weekenders and answered questions about her books, her influences, her family and so on.  It was great!  She’s so down to earth with a touch of sass!  I loved listening to her!

While waiting in line to get my book autographed (I got one for Kelly too), I struck up a conversation with the lady behind me.  We began talking about books, naturally, and somehow I mentioned I’ve written a book (plus a few started).  Let me step back, during the Q & A session, Mary Kay Andrews asked if we had any authors in the audience.  I didn’t raise my hand, only because my book still needs to be edited and isn’t published.  Well, by the time it was my turn, this wonderful lady, stepped in and informed Mary Kay Andrews of my secret.  You know, Mary Kay Andrews seemed very interested, and asked me questions about my book.  She told me to keep writing and go for it.  What an inspirational lady!

Mary Kay Andrews at MLB Oakmont 5-22-16 Aunt Heather Piper

Mary Kay Andrews discussing her newest novel, The Weekenders at MLB in Oakmont, PA 5/22/16

The entire day rocked.  Not only did I get to meet Mary Kay Andrews and get to purchase her latest book, and have it autographed, but spending the day with Kyle was much needed.  Granted, he played his video games during the entire book signing, but when it was my turn, Kyle jumped up and snapped a picture of me and Mary Kay Andrews.  Thanks buddy!  I really wanted a picture with all three of us, but Kyle already put his foot down in advance.  I didn’t want to push the issue and so I let it alone.  I simply happy to spend some time with Kyle.

During the Q & A session I learned a number of fun facts about Mary Kay Andrews.  Second to my addiction of reading, is my love of random fun facts.  Here are a few to wet your whistle.

Career

  • Mary Kay Andrews is a pseudonym for Kathy Hogan Trocheck
  • Received a B.A. in newspaper journalism from The University of Georgia in 1976
  • Began her career in newspaper journalism, working at the Savannah News-Press 1976-77
  • Worked for the Marietta Journal 1977-79
  • Reported for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution from 1980 until she left in 1991 to write books
Family
  • Born July 27, 1954, in Tampa, Florida
  • A native of St. Petersburg, Florida
  • Married her high school sweetheart
  • From a big Catholic family
  • Mary Kay Andrews is a combination of her children’s names—Mary Kay for her daughter Mary Kathleen, and Andrew, for her son, Andy
  • Self proclaimed “junker”
  • Owns two restored beach cottages on Tybee Island, GA, both of which named for fictional locations in her novels

I can’t wait to begin this book!  Check her out!  She’s a southern hoot!

Happy reading everyone!

posted by auntheather in Books, Movies, Shows,Education & Learning,Family,Milestone,News,Observation & Imagination,Random Fun Facts and have No Comments

Fishing & Fun

Every moment happens twice: inside and outside, and they are two different histories.  ~Zadie Smith

Kyle Aunt Heather Piper Planinsek Fishing Derby 5-7-16

Yep that’s the attitude I’ve come to know & almost tolerate from my 14 year old. My batman was trying not to smile, he had to look unfazed by his Aunt Heather…. ya right! Planinsek Fishing Derby 5/7/16

Yep, we survived the 27th Annual Louise Planinsek Fishing Derby, two Saturdays ago on May 7th.  Did Kyle go?  Of course.  Did he really want to go?  You know, I believe he did!  After all, he asked me about it, and dictated the time we were to get up and be there for breakfast, although he never expressed an interest in camping out Friday night.  Let me translate, that’s fourteen year old code for “I’m really excited about the fishing derby and I can’t wait!”

Kyle has always seemed to enjoy fishing, much like his dad and pappy.  Since the first day of fishing this year, Kyle’s been going with my dad nearly every weekend.  Let me tell you, that makes dad extremely happy, to spend time with Kyle, and to fish.  If I had to choose, I’d pick hunting over fishing, but I do love a fresh caught trout.

Kyle’s allowed to participate in the fishing derby until he’s sixteen.  It looks like he has another two years left.  He can always join in eating and drinking (nonalcoholic beverages), and I’m sure everyone would love to see him regardless if he fishes or not, but the rules state he can’t fish past sixteen.  However, he’d be really good at assisting the youngsters, if he’s still interested in attending the fishing derby by then.  Of course, I’ve learned with a teenager, you never know.

On Saturday, Kyle did just that, he fished, naturally, but he also helped his cousins with their bait and casting.  Kyle was surrounded by Hailey, Lila, Owen, Grant, and Olivia.  In addition to keeping the lines untangled and the hooks prepped for a catch, I gave Kyle another responsibility, a huge one at that.  What else could I possibly have expected from him?  After all, his attitude was stellar and pleasant, and he was having a great time.

I told Kyle to be on the lookout for kids falling into the pond.  It seems like every year one child manages to become submerged in pond water.  Especially since Kyle was within arms reach of the little ones, he had to keep his eyes peeled.  You know, I don’t believe I had to say anything.  Kyle acknowledged my request with an “Okay” and continued fishing, yet I sensed he knew trouble is a real possibility and he was ready for it.  Boy is that kid growing up!

Abby her boys and her dad Planinsek Fishing Derby 5-7-16 Aunt Heather Piper

Abby handing with her boys & her dad. Planinsek Fishing Derby 5/7/16

Was there a child to fall in?  You bet.  This year, Grant, Casey’s step-son.  He was okay and it didn’t seem to phase him.  This happened on the opposite side of the pond from us, Kyle was off the hook (pun intended).

It was at that moment, I saw Kyle’s maturity take shape.  He knew he was the older kid, not that adults weren’t all around at every two feet.  Kyle also trusts his swimming skills, as do I.  He was keeping an eye out for more than himself while fishing.  He was helping more than himself.  He was truly a little mature man.

To be honest, spending the entire day at the fishing derby from 7:00 am till about 9:00 pm was a long day, one I really didn’t want to go without getting some work done, yet, I’m glad I did.  There were times I thought about bugging out to work on my dog scavenger hunt events for Thrill of the Hunt, but then I thought, I never get to hang with Kyle and He only has a couple of years left to fish.  Plus, my parents weren’t there, again not that I didn’t have friends and family at every step, but staying was my way of showing Kyle we’re still a team, and I’m there to support him because he’s that important to me.

Boo and Bennet Planinsek Fishing Derby 5-7-16 Aunt Heather Piper

Uncle Boo with his nephew, Bennett at the Planinsek Fishing Derby 5/7/16

It was nice to see Kyle hang with his local friends.  They kept the tradition of dodge ball alive.  I did have to interject once.  I watched Kyle hurl the ball at a few slightly younger kids.  He certainly wasn’t trying to be malicious, Kyle was having fun and didn’t realize he’s gotten a lot taller and stronger than he used to be.  I simply asked him to not throw so hard and certainly not at anyone’s face.  He did give me a crappy little grin, like, “That’s how the game is won.” but after that, I never saw him face shot again.

We’ve had some ups and downs with these teenage years, but I’ll admit Kyle is a good kid!  He’s a nice guy, a little sassy, but his heart is still much like his dad’s and great grandpap Walter’s, good and sincere.

As Kyle was waiting around watching the seasoned gentlemen make breakfast, someone spoke up and asked who was going to do the french toast.  Kyle offered his hand and went to work.  The guys were impressed.  I wasn’t, I know what a good cook Kyle is and he knows his way around a skillet.  Unbeknownst to that crew, I’ve had Kyle cooking since he was little.  He did a great job and seemed to enjoy himself.  They all joked around, and said Kyle was now expected to help with breakfast next year.  I hope he does.

Lori Raffling off flowers Planinsek Fishing Derby 5-7-16 Aunt Heather Piper

Lori with flowers to raffle. Planinsek Fishing Derby 5/7/16

Now time for a funny, slightly scary story.  While I was among Kyle and the kids along the pond’s edge, I was helping Grant bait his hook.  To set the scene, Kyle had placed the earth worms on his seat directly behind him.  Just as I migrated into Kyle’s space, I bent over to retrieve a fat juicy warm.  I was met with something squishy and wet that hit me squarely in the forehead.  Just a fraction of a second beforehand, I saw and heard a few people jump and yell “Watch out!”  What was going on?  Kyle instantly turned around in confusion too.  What happened?

Kyle cast his line, without looking behind him, just as I moved in the exact location of the flying bait, causing it to hit me in the face with live, pond water covered group of warms strung on a hook!  The nearby witnesses thought I got a hook in the eye, but by the Grace of God, I was only smacked with grossness.  It took me and Kyle a minute to understand what happened, while everyone around looked upon us with freight and amazement.  Kyle laughed, as did I, even though it was a serious offense.  I know he didn’t mean it, but it’s true he could have taken out my eye.  It was a lesson for all the kids and a rather unpleasant one for me.  It was also partially my fault, I should have paid attention to Kyle, since I invaded his territory unannounced.

At the end of the night Cindy and Dave Planinsek, plus the rest of the Planinsek gang, who worked hard to organized this annually anticipated event, purchased a variety of toys and fishing gear for the kid’s raffle.  Tickets are purchased and each ticket contains the name of a child.  The booty is placed on several picnic tables for the children to see.  Names are drawn and the children, with major excitement, approach the table to select a prize.  This continues until all the items are claimed.  I wasn’t sure if I should add Kyle’s name to the list or not, so I chose to purchase tickets, better play it safe.  There were other items in addition to toys, such as fishing poles, tackles boxes and bags, hats, and such.  Why not?

Kyle Fishing Pose c. 2003 Aunt Heather Piper

How my little man has grown… He always did love to fish, real or plastic fish. (about 2 years old) c. 2003

While all the kids settled down under the pavilion, I looked for Kyle.  I asked around were that kid was located.  Only because everyone was in one central location under the pavilion, where he was suppose to be.  I eventually found Kyle hanging out by the volleyball / dodge ball court, talking with a few kids his age.  Boy how times have changed!

Kyle used to be the first one, up front, ready for the drawing to begin.  Now he was very blasé about it.  I told him to join the crowd, which he was hesitant, but did so.  I stood in the back, nervously waiting for his name to be called, knowing it was either a good or bad decision to purchase him tickets.

Finally, I heard, KYLE PIPER.  He didn’t seem to hear his name.  I walked over and tapped him on the shoulder letting him know he should go and get a prize.  His response?  He rolled his eyes at me and shrugged his shoulders like, “There’s nothing I want.”  To assist and keep the once exciting part of the day in momentum, I pointed to the fishing poles and such.  Without much effort, he selected a fishing pole.  Kyle’s name was drawn a few more times, which he graciously gave to his little cousins to take his spot.  At the end, I asked him where his fishing pole was?  His response?  “I gave it to Grant, he wanted it.”  Okay, buddy, that was a nice gesture!

I love that kid!  I’m already looking forward to next year, as I believe Kyle is.  It’s days like that, that I’m grateful to have taken the time to spend with Kyle and to appreciate the little man he is and mature man he’s turning into.

Did Kyle catch any fish?  He did, a very small blue gill.  Now that was a definite laugh out loud moment.  Aside from the three inch killer whale, Kyle had no other luck.

On another side note, Kyle woke up Sunday morning in a rather crabby mood.  Maybe he had too much excitement and needed more sleep.

posted by auntheather in Common Sense,Education & Learning,Family,Hiking & Outdoors,Hunting & Fishing,News,Observation & Imagination,Patience and have No Comments

Let the Fishing Begin!

Nothing whets the intelligence more than a passionate suspicion, nothing develops all the faculties of an immature mind more than a trail running away into the dark.  ~Stefan Zweig

Youth Fishing Loyalhanna Kyle 4-9-16 Aunt Heather Piper

Kyle too cool (literally) to stand, leaned against the bushes & fell… I laughed! Loyalhanna Creek 4/9/16

Youth fishing was last Saturday.  Did we take Kyle?  You bet we did.  He really does love fishing.  Hunting he could take it or leave it, and over the last couple years he left it, (I know he’ll be back) yet fishing has always remained.

I too like to fish, although if I had my choice I’d much rather hunt.  Why?  Simply because in hunting season, I like to walk around the woods, pushing deer or just roaming around.  I like being among the trees, I feel at home.  Fishing is great, but sitting for long hours isn’t my thing, not to mention, I have a serious aversion to mosquitoes, which always accompany the riverbanks and lakes and warm weather.

Ryan loved fishing, and hunting too.  It seemed he did more fishing, but perhaps that’s due to the longer season.  Usually he fished with dad, his friends, friends of the family and my uncle and cousins.  He fished!

It’s nice to see Kyle having something in common with his Dad, especially one that my Dad, Kyle’s Pappy, enjoys as much.

Every time I think of Ryan fishing, the image of him drowning comes to mind.  On one such fishing excursion to the local creeks, Uncle Sonny took Ryan and I believe my two cousins, Chad and Jeremy.  I’m sure there was a group of them, but I don’t remember.  Naturally, they were wearing waders, you know those rubber overalls.  I guess Ryan tripped or slipped or something and fell into the water.  Many times when that happens, depending on the speed of the creek and the position of the person in the water etc., the water can drag a person down and create a suction effect.  Ultimately, drowning the unfortunate fisherman.  From what I remember of the stories told, that’s what happened to Ryan, who never liked water in his face and was a panicky swimmer anyway.  Scary stuff!  Uncle Sonny had to pull him up out of the water, essentially saving his life.  I don’t know if he was really on the brink of death, or Ryan just panicked, but it happened.

Youth Fishing Loyalhanna Creek 4-9-16 Aunt Heather Piper

Kyle has casting down pretty good… he’s a pretty good fisherman, now baiting his own hook! Loyalhanna Creek 4/9/16

I’m never worried about Kyle and water.  I know things can happen, and quickly, but Kyle doesn’t have a sense of panic in the water.  I’ve had him in swimming lessons since he was little, around five or six.  He went once a week until he was about twelve or so.  He LOVED his swimming days.  He used to draw pictures of the pool at the YMCA, and include his name on one side of this blue area on the paper, and the capital letter H on the other side, where I sat watching him.  I took him when he went from the small pool and graduated to the big pool, from the shallow end to the ultimate depths of the water.  He loved diving deep underwater.  In fact, he loved being completely submerged.  Kyle is very secure with his swimming abilities, as am I.

This past Saturday, would have been a very cold day to make contact with the water.  Dad and I took Kyle fishing, with the many other little munchkins lining the Loyalhanna Creek with their batman and barbie fishing pools.  Dad and I got a chuckle out of that, too cute!  It wasn’t that long ago Kyle was there, but now he’s graduated to the adult size reel and pole.  Come to think of it, I believe Kyle took my Dad’s fishing pole on Saturday.  He’s too much!

Dad and I were permitted to catch and release, but I didn’t want to.  I preferred watching Kyle fish.  He was only allowed to catch two trout, but hey, it was the experience I enjoyed.

Now the typical Kyle we’ve all grown to know and love, or at least accept.  While getting ready to leave, I told him it was really cold out and it would be colder down by the creek.  Kyle’s response, “I’ll be fine.”  Ignoring him and knowing better, I gave him long underwear.  He gave me a look of “Ya right” but actually dressed in the set, while only adding jeans and a t-shirt.  Although, he did take my thickest hoodie.  I asked him, do you want a pair of gloves?  Kyle’s response, “No, I’ll be fine.”  Then I stated, “Kyle I want you to wear a hat or something over your ears.”  After he rolled his eyes at me, he responded, “I’ll be fine.”  Right!  I know I’ve been mistaken for being psychic, but honestly I’ve been through this same scenario many times before.

Youth Fishing Loyalhanna Kyle 4-9-16 Kyle & Dad Aunt Heather Piper

Yep, Pap has fallen prey to modern times… he’s on his cell. Kyle & I laughed at him. Loyalhanna Creek 4/9/16

We get to the creek and choose a seat on the wall, overlooking the water.  No more than twenty minutes passed, and Kyle started complaining how cold he was.  He wasn’t exaggerating either, I could tell he was really cold.  Mostly he complained about his hands being frozen, go figure.  “Kyle, do you want my gloves?”  Without hesitation and without modesty, he answerd “Okay!”.  So there went my hunting gloves.   They’re warm too!  They’re the kind of gloves with the cut out fingers for mobility, and the tops flip up into mittens for complete fleece warmth.  Awesome gloves!  I actually did prepare for Kyle asking for my gloves, and I brought a spare pair of snowboarding gloves, however they were back at the car.  No worries, I kept my hands in my hunting coat and I was toasty.

A child down the creek from us, caught a really nice sized trout, but no luck on our side.  It’s funny, Dad really enjoyed watching the boy reel in his fish and get excepted over his catch.  He was so happy for that child!  Kyle, didn’t really care.  He only kept commenting on how cold it was and was hinting around of leaving.  I wasn’t too happy about that, only because he was too stubborn to dress appropriately, and now I missed going to the gym.  I don’t mind standing there, but Kyle better be fishing and not complaining.

Soon, we left that spot for another, and to warm up in the car.  Dad drove down the opposite side of Route 30 to find another spot, one he’s never fished before.  It was great!  A nice spot where the river was running a little faster than our previous spot, assisting with the snags, and right along the water.

As we stood there, in the snow, yes, the beginning of April and it was snowing, it was quite the sight when the snow started flying.  Kyle was amazed that we were fishing among large fluffy snowflakes.  Dad’s response, “Oh, I’ve fished in worse weather than this before.”  He began to tell Kyle about some of his fishing adventures in Michigan.  The sky was completely overcast, not letting a bit of light shine through.  Kyle joined my gaze and made the same observation.  Just then Dad said, “If the sun would start shinning, I bet the fish would bite.”

Youth Fishing Loyalhanna Kyle & Dad 4-9-16 Aunt Heather Piper

Look closely, you’ll see Kyle in my hunting gloves… Loyalhanna Creek 4/9/16

Next thing you knew, the clouds parted ever so slightly and the sun shined down on us.  Not for long, but enough and soon Dad got a nibble.  He turns to Kyle to offer him the honor of reeling it in.  Without thinking twice, Kyle handed me his pole and to0k over Dad’s, like he was the professional among us.  Too funny!  Dad gave me a big smile.  It was like Kyle was five again.  He reeled in the Rainbow and was as happy as I’ve seen him in a while.  The trout was legal, and Kyle decided to keep it.

Not surprising, Kyle took over his Pappy’s spot and began casting into the water.  Dad laughed and took a seat on a rock to let Kyle have the run of the area.  I stood by in support, with net in hand.  It didn’t take long for Kyle to get another bite.  He was excited and reeled in another Rainbow, instructing me to get the net out.  Dad yelled over, “I think that’s bigger than the last one!”  Kyle’s eye got big and looked toward his catch.  It was slightly larger, a perfect size fish!  Way to go!

Kyle's picture of the YMCA pool c. 2007 Aunt Heather Piper

Kyle’s artistic expression of swimming lessons at the YMCA with me. I think I’m the capital H c. 2007

Kyle decided to keep both fish, meaning we were done fishing for the day.  Now who gets to clean up the prizes?  Me?  YES, me!  In the freezing cold.  Dad remained on his rock, and I thought for a moment, he was going to make Kyle clean his own fish, but instead had me do it.  Kyle smiled knowing I didn’t want to pull my hands out of my pockets.  (I don’t mind cleaning the fish)  Kyle helped me by handing me the fish.  Did I mention he was still wearing my hunting gloves?  I guess now they smell like fish!

My hands were freezing!  As I was descaling the fish, Dad kept commenting, “Make sure you get all the scales off.” and “Get between the fins.”  Kyle stood there watching me snickering.  I was ready to kill them both, stinkers!  My hands were turning blue.  Then, while gutting the fish and rinsing them off in the ice cold water, my hands became numb and stinging.  I was barely able to move them.

We raced back to car and Dad cranked the heat.  We did have a very fun and successful day.  I’m glad I tagged along and helped out.

Did we eat the catch?  You bet we did.  Everyone shared in the small feast.

Tomorrow is the first day of fishing for everyone.  Dad has our spots mapped out and planned.  It looks like it’s going to be a nice day, which means a lot of fishermen.  I hope we’re blessed with a good catch and a nice time.  Dad’s already planning on smoking our plenty.

posted by auntheather in Education & Learning,Family,Hiking & Outdoors,Hunting & Fishing,Observation & Imagination,Patience,Reminiscing and have No Comments

Happy Birthday Dad! – 65 Years Strong

Years fly by, but the heart stays in the same place.  ~Harlan Coben

Happy Birthday Dad! January 16, 1951

Dad U Sonny 10-1956 Aunt Heather Piper

Dad & Uncle Sonny, I think on a school field trip. 10/1956

I’m well aware Dad despises me talking about him online, not that he ever reads anything I write.  Why?  Because the old man’s never touched a computer in his life, let alone knows how to use a search engine. (He’s never even used an ATM machine.)  So how does he know I talk about him online?  I’m usually ratted out by people who read my blog and follow my social media sites, usually my Mom.  However, since Dad’s getting up there in years, he needs to have each and every year recognized and recorded, at the very least for Kyle to remember his dear old Pap.  My rule when reading my blog: read it to enjoy but never tell Dad where you heard the stories about him, or even those of Kyle.

Anyway, Dad added another year to his resume.  What’s been going on with my retiree?  Not much, he’s loving his simple life on the ridge.  His typical day consists of hanging with the dogs, Seven and Scooby, sneaking in a nap or two, sometimes cutting firewood or doing yard work, and visiting his ladies at least four times a day.

Ladies?  Who are the ladies?  That’s what Dad calls his chickens, which totally cracks me up!  He loves those birds.  Recently, they started laying eggs, which has now become the big excitement of each day.  No joke!

Sure, I still help Dad with our hobbies.  We have our honey bees, and up until this past fall, we were raising turkeys, who are now tucked away in the freezer.  Summer always brings a renewed interest in fishing and trapping snapping turtle, too.

Is Dad still hunting?  You bet!  In fact, he took the muzzle-loader out this year, and he participated in the senior citizen season.  Time for a true funny story.  Late October is the youth hunt or mentor hunting, coincidentally it’s also senior citizen hunting, prior to the standard deer season.  Every time I heard Dad recount this past hunting season with anyone, he talked about the youth hunt.  He always called it the youth hunt, not the senior citizen hunt.  Everyone, and I mean everyone, gave Dad a very inquisitive confused look when Dad, an old man, talked about hunting during the “youth hunt”.  In Dad’s head he knew he was legal, but most people were taken back by the term “youth hunt” in reference to Dad hunting.

Nowadays, Dad’s interested in purchasing a crossbow for archery season.  I’m okay with that!  Seriously, whatever keeps him active and happy.  He was even trying to nudge Mom (Gigi) back into hunting, to get her moving around since she too is retired as of the first of the year.  Personally, I think Dad has a better chance of shooting a 24 point, with an arrow that ricocheted off of a tree trunk, and a large rock before hitting the buck directly in the lungs, dropping it immediately.  Could happen, but highly unlikely.

What did we do today?  We butchered a 620 pound pig.  Seriously?  Yes!  Only in the Piper household.  Dad should have been a butcher for he loves harvesting his own meat.  Kyle even came over early to spend the weekend, although he passed on helping with the pig.  Instead, Kyle assisted me in making his pappy a pound cake.  We spent the day together, and had a really nice time.

Happy birthday old man!  I hope you keep going for another 60 years.

posted by auntheather in Cooking with Kyle,Education & Learning,Family,Hiking & Outdoors,Hunting & Fishing,Observation & Imagination,Pets and have No Comments

Stories of Cell Phones Past

An adult life…is a slowly emerging design, with shifting components, occasional dramatic disruptions, and fresh creative arrangements.  ~Jill Ker Conway

First Cell Phones Aunt Heather Piper 1995

I believe the phone on the right looked more like my 1st cell phone. I actually had to pull up the antenna. 1995

I thought this story was Christmas appropriate, since many people will be giving and receiving electronics.  Just the other day, a few friends of mine were talking about cell phones, and the now obsolete pagers.

For those who remember that once common device, pagers could only receive phone numbers or a string of numbers.  It worked like this.  You had to call a pager number from a phone, and enter the number for the person to use a phone and call you back.  Communication was laborious,  but they were very popular.  I never had an interest in them.

Now, we all know what our cell phones mean to us, and the services offered such as text messaging, the internet, email and so on.  Even though they’re taken for granted, cell phones are an integral part of our lives, and most would agree, we couldn’t function without them.  Unfortunately, I too am one those individuals.  Even children have cell phones, and they live by them! Scary!  Kyle’s certainly addicted his and the video games he plays them on.  They’re wonderful inventions for emergencies, shopping, running a business and such, but cell phones have also created an unnecessary reliance on said devices.  Perhaps this topic is up for later discussion.

What many people don’t know, mostly the younger generation, or many have forgotten, are the stages society went through to get to this point of cell phone design and coverage.  Do I?  Not to date myself, but I completely remember the stages of my cell phone over the past twenty years!

Tree & Corey on Tree's couch Mid 1990s Aunt Heather Piper

Tree & Corey posing on Tree’s couch. Mid 1990s

Surprisingly, I was one of the first in the area to have a cell phone.  True!  Those were the days when public phones were still prominent on every street corner, and in restaurants and bars, and used frequently.  The old days when everyone carried a quarter in case they needed to make an emergency call.  I’ve had a cell phone since 1995, when I was still a teenager, and my sister was in college, and my brother in high school.  Can you believe I’ve had the same phone number for more than two decades?  Obviously, not the same phone.

To really put this into perspective, I’ll recap.  I had a cell phone when it was still analog, before digital cells phones and services existed.  My phone has always had the area code 412, because the entire Pittsburgh and surrounding areas were the same.  The days before our area code changed to 724.  In fact, during the transition, when someone from my area would call me or I them, I was charged a long distance call because it was a different area code, even if they were calling from a mile away.  It was explained to me that the cell signal needed to go to Pittsburgh to be send back.  Consequently, when I called true long distance calls with the area code 412, it wasn’t considered a long distance call.  During this transition many people changed their phone numbers to decrease their phone bill.  I did not.  I figured I had my number for the past three years, and I wasn’t going to change.  I knew the billing coverage would adjust as time passed, which it did.  Today, I have unlimited calling and texting anywhere in the United States.  Again, times have changed.  My cell is also a hot spot for internet service.

Aunt Heather Piper in hat at Trees Mid 1990s

Me at Tree’s getting ready to go to Bonkers (Illusions) Mid 1990s

I still remember picking my phone number.  Yep.  The basic crux of the story is, I got in trouble for not calling home, so mom thought she’d stick it to me, by making me get a cell phone.  I was also told I had to pay for it.  I complied, even though I didn’t want to be bothered.  Little did I know, just how much I was going to rely on the mobile device.  At the time, pagers were more popular.  However, in my eyes, if I was going to pay for something, I’d rather be able to send and receive calls, as opposed to relying on a pay phone.  Plus, the idea of me carrying change was never a guarantee.

Mom went with me to Westmoreland Mall, to the cell phone store, which I think was a Bell Atlantic.  Not being thrilled with this new expense, I selected a basic brick style phone.  The only options were the brick phone or a clunky flip phone.  I preferred the simple sleek design, even though it was basically a portable phone,  just not as thick.

Now time to pick the phone number.  I don’t how anyone else received their phone number, but I was given a piece of paper, listing numbers to peruse.  Seriously?  Yep.  The numbers were typed on a simple unassuming sheet of paper.

Think about it, when filling out information for job applications and such, there wasn’t even an option to add cell or mobile phone numbers.  Nope.  It was home or work.  I remember, I solely used my cell phone, a very uncommon practice back then.  Who knew I was before my time.

Tracey Behind a Tree Mid 1990s Aunt Heather Piper

Tracey hiding behind a tree … why? I have no idea. During one of our DBs Mid 1990s

Would you believe my phone didn’t have text messaging capabilities, for it didn’t even exist yet.  It didn’t have email service, not that I had an email address.  It didn’t have internet coverage, and forget about games and apps, no such thing, yet.  Smartphones didn’t exist until about 2007 with Apple’s iPhone 1.o, and then later came the app store, and soon after the full internet usage and data coverage options.

Right before digital service was introduced to the area, I had to get a new phone to adapt to the new technology.  That Christmas, I also purchased Nicole the same phone, her very first cell phone.  That was probably around 1998 or so.  By then, I saw the value and I understood the importance of the electronic device.  By this point, all my friends had my phone number and called me whenever, knowing I was going to be the one answering.  By then I started to become reliant on my cell phone, heavily.

Not long after, I had to purchase a new cell phone to accept text messaging, which was very much in its infancy stages, but growing in popularity.  I also had to pay for the additional service, unlike my unlimited option of today.

Eventually, I came up to speed with the smartphone craze, and turned Kyle into a cell phone machine, to never look back.  It’s crazy talking about my first cell phone and its capabilities, compared to today.  Anyone else remember their very first cell phone?

Wishing everyone a very Merry Christmas!

 

posted by auntheather in Common Sense,Education & Learning,Milestone,News,Observation & Imagination,Reminiscing and have No Comments

Hunting Adventures – Deer Season

Listen to them, the children of the night. What music they make!  ~Bram Stoker

Deer hunting in Cortland NY Tree stand 11-21-15 Aunt Heather Piper

View from my tree stand in Cortland, NY … 1st day of deer season 11/21/15

Let me explain my reasoning for using this quote, which was selected more for my own personal humor.  It’s a famous quote, basically showing the correlation between Dracula and wild animals.  Bram Stoker was referring to the werewolves.  Plus, let’s not forget there’s the underlying theme of Dracula being a hunter.  (I think I’m going to add this book to my list of reads.)  Everyone knows who, not what, Dracula hunted, although perhaps he too hunted deer in his off time.

Out of shear curiosity, I looked up hunting in Transylvania, and they actually have red, fallow and roebuck deer!  A little fun fact.  One day, I’d like to take dad to hunt there.  I bet it’d be fun.

Anyway, focusing on good old white tail deer, during rifle season in Western Pennsylvania, a few weeks ago, the hunting season began.  I wish I had stories to tell from fall turkey, but alas I was really busy with Thrill of the Hunt and prepping to take time off for deer season that I wasn’t able to go.  Perhaps, I’ll be able to participate in small game and spring gobbler for the remainder of my 2015 – 2016 hunting license.  We’ll see.

Dad & Larry getting ready to deer hunt Cortland NY 11-20-15 Aunt Heather Piper

Larry adding ribbons to the trees, while Dad drove behind. Larry gave us a tour of the woods we were hunting in, & helped us get ready for the 1st day of deer. 11/20/15

Looking back on this entire season, it started off the same with the Hunting Adventures – The Goose Hunt and ended much the same with Pennsylvania deer.  How so?  Let me explain.

Dad and I went to Cortland, New York, as we do every year for the first day of rifle for deer, which began on Saturday, November 21st, a little over a week before Pennsylvania’s season began.  This year, we hunted in a different area, one that clearly showed signs of populated deer.  Promising right?  You bet!  Dad was positioned one side of the woods, while I was on the other end.  Prior to hunting on Saturday, a good friend of dad’s who we stayed with, showed us our new hunting spots the day prior.  Good to go!

Dad and I each had a buck and a doe tag.  How many deer did we get total?  Zero.  How many deer did we see between the two of us?  Nada.  Seriously?  Yes!  By Saturday night, everyone in our group got a buck, but no one saw a single doe.  It was the strangest thing, usually the opposite happens.  Then, for me and dad to not see a single deer, no one could believe it.  Well, it happens.

Deer Hunting in Indiana PA Tree Stand 11-30-15 Aunt Heather Piper

View from my tree stand in Indiana, PA. Love the morning view! 11/30/15

From what I was told, that area of New York, off the finger lakes, had a really rough winter last year ,and it killed off a bunch of deer.  Oh well, I was happy to see everyone else harvested at least one deer.  Keep in mind, that was just opening day.  Dad and I were going to continue hunting until we filled our tags, or Thanksgiving came first, forcing us home.

Sunday came, and yes you’re allowed to hunt on Sunday’s in New York, but another nothing.  No deer sightings at all.  Monday.  Zip.  Tuesday.  Zilch.  Wednesday.  Nada.  How many deer did we see?  Total between the two of us?  That’s a big fat zero.  We even moved to different locations throughout the week to increase our chances, but alas no deer.  I told Dad and Larry, I suspected the deer intercepted their phone conversations and had us bugged to avoid us.  Honestly, I had a great season last year so I can’t complain.  It’s a bit disappointing and anticlimactic, but it’s apart of the hunting experience.  Sometimes you see deer, sometimes you don’t, sometimes you see a trophy buck, sometimes you don’t even see a buck.  We left Wednesday to head home, after trying our luck in the woods again, but to no avail.

On a side note, Larry gave us his doe he shot later in the week.  That wasn’t necessary, but very kind of him.  Larry felt bad for our lack of adventure, but I don’t think he realized we had fun regardless.  Hanging with Dad in the woods is always a nice time.  I told Dad, that the deer he gave us to take home felt like a consolation prize.  Dad laughed and agreed with me, but was also very appreciative over the gesture.

Deer Hunting in New York 11-24-15 Aunt Heather Piper

One of my spots while hunting in New York. Waiting for Dad to pick me up to call it a day. 11/24/15

I’m glad we made it back by Wednesday night, to spend some time with Kyle.  I was also able to help mom cook and prep for Thanksgiving dinner, which Kyle joined us.

After a short hiatus, the first day of buck in Pennsylvania began on Monday, November 30th.  Dad and I were both really excited, thinking our luck was going to change.  Unlike New York, we were only allowed to shoot buck on Monday, three points or better.  The night before, I was joking with Dad saying, I forgot what a deer looks like in the woods.  Dad began to tease me and tell friends and family that I was the reason we didn’t see any deer.  We were both giggling over our New York experience, and we were ready to bring home some deer meat.

By eight or nine in the morning, I saw a few doe.  To be honest, it was nice just seeing the deer, however no horns.  At the end of the day when dad pulled the quad up to my stand to pick me up, neither of us had anything to drag out.  Dad didn’t see anything!  He was happy to hear I saw about thirteen doe, although I’m not sure if they were all different, or the same group running around.  Still, good sign.

Deer Hunting Tweet Aunt Heather Piper

Naturally, I have social fun while deer hunting. If Dad knew, I’d be the one shot, not the deer!

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to hunt on the first day of doe, that Saturday, but dad did.  He went into my tree stand and harvested a doe in the morning.  Yeah!  Finally something for our efforts.

I hunted sporadically with dad the rest of the season, again at different locations.  Can you believe we never saw a single deer?  Not one deer after Dad got his doe!  On the last day of deer season, Saturday, December 12th, which happened to be my birthday, and Mom and Dad’s 64th wedding anniversary, we never saw a deer.  This time we were hunting in Stahlstown.  We even had guys pushing for us, but nothing, not even an almost sighting, or a waving tail.

I didn’t realize our goose hunt started a trend we couldn’t shake the entire deer season, from New York to Pennsylvania.  The season might have been a bust with respect to harvesting deer meat, but to be honest, I had a great time with Dad.  It’s funny, when we came home on Saturday, Dad made the exact same comment about having fun even though no one took a single shot.  Like me, Dad loves being in the woods, walking around, and being removed from the hustle and bustle of life.  Sure, it’s always nice to accomplish your goal of filling the deer tags, but it’s also about the experience and spending time together.

I’m sure in years to come, we’ll talk about this adventure.  I hope so, for it’s a great memory!  The only thing missing was Kyle.

posted by auntheather in Common Sense,Education & Learning,Family,Hiking & Outdoors,Hunting & Fishing,News,Observation & Imagination,Patience,Travels and have No Comments

Silly Greeting, Aunt Heather Style

Silly things do cease to be silly if they are done by sensible people in an impudent way.  ~Jane Austen

Pittsburgh gals 1995 Aunt Heather Piper

Becca’s wedding. Me, (L) Becca, Kathleen, Tracy – Pittsburgh gals from Contempo Casuals & Trade Secret 1995

This is a bit silly, and anyone who knows me, can picture this one.  I guess old habits stay with me, and this one certainly has in a big way, for about 14-years.  I’d like to think that one day, Kyle is going to tell stories about his crazy Aunt Heather, and one such story will include this special phrase.  To ensure Kyle truly understands, and knows this phrase was always delivered with warmth and love, for it comes straight from my heart, I’ll explain.

I have this thing I do with Kyle, (and sometimes with my dog and cat) which has spread to selected individuals, only at the right moment.  It’s really pretty silly actually, but something worth noting.  In fact, when I say this phrase to others, I always share stories about Kyle, my little Narrow.  It goes to show, just how much that little bugger is always on my mind, and how much I care for him.

What’s the phrase?  Instead of saying “There he is!”, as in Kyle walks into a room and I show my love and affection for him by focusing all my attention toward him.  I’ve changed it slightly to “Dare he is!”

Why?  Initially, it started when he was a baby, hence the baby talk.  Also, sometimes I was so excited to see my little guy, I’d rush through the words to eliminate the “Th” and pick a letter at the front of the alphabet for quicker delivery.  Plus, it was sillier to say “Dare” instead of “There”.  At least Kyle got a kick out of it, and it made him giggle.  Then, it became our thing.  So it stuck.

Dave greeting Aunt Heather Piper c. 1997

Davey greeting me in his own unique way.  He cracks me up!  Philadelphia area visiting his mom. c. 1997

When do I use this silly phrase?  When Kyle was a little tyke, I’d say it with pure enthusiasm and gusto, upon him waking  from a nap or from a long nights sleep.  Sometimes I’d say it when he walked in the door or visa versa.  Sometimes I’d say it out of nowhere just for the heck of it to make him smile, and show my love towards my Narrow.  In recent times, I’d say it to get his attention, and if I wanted to see a smile.  Especially, if he was being crabby or the tension was a bit overwhelming, to help lighten the mood.  It usually worked.  At least, after the argument, not necessarily during.  Of course picture me saying “Dare he is.” over and over with all of my heart and soul, sporting a big old grin.  Who can resist me?  Not even Kyle!

In fact, over the years I’ve caught Kyle using this phrase, mostly towards our pets, but sometimes with his Aunt Nikki and with myself.  He always did like to get a rise out of me, and that’s the best way to do it!  Personally, I loved it when he tried to get my attention by saying “Dare she is.  Hey Aunt Heather, dare she is!”  That little stinker would flash me an ornery grin and look at me from the corner of his eye.  LOVED THAT!

When I say it towards friends, it’s obviously not as frequent, but it’s a way for me to bring a smile to others, and possibly lighten their day.  Plus, those who know the story, which is about everyone, appreciates its origins, and I enjoy sharing my joy of Kyle with others.  Kyle and that silly phrase are such a part of me, naturally they’d go hand in hand.

The big question, how is it used?  It was always sort of our own personal greeting.  But it’s not a single line greeting.  Oh no!  It’s to be said in repetition, with each time getting louder, projecting more excitement, and enunciating each word deliberately.  In the case of Kyle, usually I follow it up with a big hug and a kiss (later on the cheek).

Example:  “Dare he is.  Dare (pause) He Is!  DARE (pause) HE (pause) IS!” and sometimes one for the road only quicker.  “Dare-he-is.”  It’s to be said with gusto, pure love and a huge smile.  Not only is this greeting verbal, but it’s also body language and attitude, a good attitude.  More than not, I’ve found myself saying it with my arms extended ready to embrace my little man.

Just talking about our silly greeting makes me want to give Kyle a big old hug.  This is one thing I hope Kyle always remembers about me, and I hope he remembers it fondly with all of my love.

 

posted by auntheather in Common Sense,Education & Learning,Family,News,Observation & Imagination,Patience,Pets,Reminiscing and have No Comments

Who’s Behind That Sousaphone? – Marching Band

Chaos often breeds life, when order breeds habit.  ~Henry Adams

Kyle with Pap and Scooby 9-20-15 Aunt Heather Piper

Mom got Kyle to pose with his Pap for a picture with Kyle’s Marching Band Metal from Bands of America on 9/19/15, 1st Place! Scooby made his appearance too… 9/20/15

Yes, this isn’t another quote chosen by happenstance.  I thought it only fitting since Kyle loves math and he’s my little teenager trying to be unique.  It’s also a reminder that life is delicate, simple, and yet complex, especially when dealing with a teenager.  I know I’ll never truly know Kyle’s outcome in life, but I do know what I’m desperately trying to teach him, and how I’m leading by example.

It’s no secret Kyle’s always loved music, hence why I started him young, at the age of six to be exact, with piano lessons.  Now as a fiery fourteen-year-old he’s in the marching band.  Honestly, this decision, which was solely his, which rings music to my ears.  I love Kyle’s involvement in the band!  It’s wonderful discipline, a structured social activity, good competition and great cultural exposure with their travels, just to name a few benefits.

Unbeknownst to some, I too was involved in the Greater Latrobe Marching Band for four years.  Granted, I never played an instrument, I was in the Colorguard, but I was apart of a great group of people and I had the best years of my life.  The marching band was my gateway to Winterguard, and in my senior year, I was apart of the Indoor Drumline.

Did I influence Kyle at all?  I’m really not sure.  I know I never pushed him into marching band, but I’ve made comments, mostly about my experiences in the band and how much fun I had.  Perhaps something resonated with Kyle, or he’s more like me than I realize, and we have the same type of interests and enjoy the same activities.  Who knows?  Personally I don’t care.  I’m happy he found something he enjoys.

As you may have guessed, Kyle plays the sousaphone.  What is that?  It’s a form of tuba.  Does he like it?  When asked, he kind of shakes his head and nonchalantly smiles.  I’ve learned in teenage terms, that’s a great big YES.

He’s already gone through band camp, which in everyone’s experience is dreaded, yet favorable in lifelong memories.  It’s hard work but the payoff and benefits are well worth it.

About two Saturday’s ago, September 12th, Mom and I were able to attend Kyle’s home band competition at Kiski.  Sadly, it rained off and on throughout the competition.  Add the bitter cold and it made for a less than favorable evening of band watching.  Did I care?  Not one bit!  It brought back memories of marching through the mud, and being soaked to the bones along with everyone else.  Those are the times that bond a group, believe it or not.  The hard times reveals everyone’s true attitude and nature, and can be the glue that unites a large group.  From what I’ve been told, it’s very similar to being in the armed forces, same basic principle.

Kyle in Kiski Marching Band 9-12-15 Aunt Heather Piper

Our little man, middle sousaphone (tube). Kiski Marching Band home competition. 9/12/15

Competitions were always my favorite.  Football games, I didn’t really care much about, and parades were okay, but what I lived for, besides the travel, were the Saturday night competitions.

Naturally, mom and I arrived early.  We wanted to get a good seat and make sure we didn’t miss anything Kyle was involved in.  We didn’t!  In fact, when entering the football field, we came in on the wrong side and had to cross the field, literally in the grass to get to the other side.  While doing so, Kyle and his group of blue were lined up practicing before us.  What luck!  Boy did that make my day!  Naturally, I stood in front of everyone, yelling, “Kyle!  Kyle!”  Of course, he was in the back and didn’t hear me at first.  Getting the attention of a young lady, I was on a mission to make eye contact with Kyle.  Finally, Kyle looked up and tried not to give me that typical grin.  Was I flailing my arms around and waving them in his direction?  You bet I was!  Subtly, he brought his hand up to give me a little wave, trying to appease me so I’d leave.  My night was complete!  I got to see Kyle and he looked good!

It was great watching the bands again.  I truly enjoyed it.  Some braved the rough terrain and kept to their routines, while others stood and performed for the audience.  Kiski stood and played.  They were the last high school on the field, so I didn’t blame them.  As a whole, they looked and sounded great.

Kyle did not disappoint.  When Kyle wants to, he’ll give his all to being the best that he can possibly be given the task at hand.  I’ve seen in when he was a server (alter boy) in church.  The same precision and intent was portrayed while Kyle was on the field.  I mean he carried himself well, and had the attitude of an competitor.  I was very proud!

This past Saturday was Bands of America in Monroeville.  I was unable to attend since I was administering to a scavenger hunt in Arlington, Virginia for Thrill of the Hunt.  When I got back on Sunday, after I picked Kyle up at the tutor’s, I asked about the event.  Proudly, Kyle told me they took first place and he had a metal to show for it.  I could tell he was very pleased, as he should be.

Good job buddy!  I wish I could have been there to watch and support you!  Next time.  I couldn’t be more proud, and I hope your experiences are rewarding and fun.  Congratulations!

 

posted by auntheather in Common Sense,Education & Learning,Family,Milestone,News,Observation & Imagination,Patience,Thrill of the Hunt Scavenger Hunts and have No Comments

Cruising the Open Seas

The voice of the sea speaks to the soul.  ~Kate Chopin

Kyle-swimming-with-dolphin-on-cruise-6-2015-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Kyle finally got to swim with the dolphins! One of the many activities on his cruise trip with Aunt Nikki. 6/2015

Summer has arrived and has consumed all of my time.  Between Thrill of the Hunt and my scavenger hunt events, the garden, the bees, the chickens and the turkeys, and trying to wrangle in a 13-year-old to spend quality time with me, there’s little time to do anything else.  Personally, I wish I’d open my schedule for more leisurely reading and writing, and I will, but until then, busy, busy, busy.  Those are my days, which are clearly very different from Kyle’s.

Kyle seems to be enjoying his summer thus far.  He’s in the marching band, practicing one day a week.  He’s also trying his hand at the Tuba.  I’m glad he’s challenging himself and I’m very proud of that young boy, who still hasn’t shaken his attitude (partially).  However, that’s not all, besides fishing and mostly laying around playing video games, Kyle recently added some miles to his life experiences.

Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex 6-10-15 Aunt Heather Piper

Kyle and his Aunt Nikki set sail for Kyle’s first cruise.  Seriously?  Yes!  It was the annual Aunt Nikki and Kyle’s Week of Fun trip(Please note, I’m still not invited on these trips, which would make them even more adventurous and fun, just saying.  We could call it Kyle and the Aunts’ Week of Fun!)    I can’t believe the trip was nearly a month ago now.  To be honest, it started a few months back when Nicole and Kyle began discussing this year’s “Week of Fun” trip ideas.  Then, the anticipation grew even more when Kyle’s passport came in the mail.  What 13-year-old kid has a passport and has used it?  I’m sure some kids, obviously Kyle, but I never did until I reached my twenties.  He is blessed!  Then, the true excitement, when Nicole came home the weekend before departure to pick up the package, a.k.a. Kyle.

On Sunday, June 7th Nicole and Kyle drove to Baltimore, Maryland to jump aboard their cruise liner and set sail for a memorable week.

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“Aunt Nikki and Kyle’s Week of Fun” … this year a cruise. 6/2015

Where did they go?  They went to the Bahamas, stopped off in Florida and visited NASA and the Kennedy Space Center, and they participated in activities on the cruise ship while at sea, including the hairy chest contest.  Nicole won!  Just kidding! (That totally made me laugh out loud!)

These were all firsts for Kyle, including the hairy chest contest!  I’m glad my sister was able to introduce him to new experiences.  Like what?  Kyle got to swim with the dolphins!  Did he love it?  You bet!  He also got to explore the Bahamas, something I’ve never even done.  In fact, whoever his tour guide was left an impression on Kyle that lasted long after his trip.  Unbeknownst to the tour guide, he knew how to speak Kyle.  Basically the language of Kyle is through statistics and numbers.  Nicole and Kyle came home on Sunday, June 14th.  I was in Arlington, Virginia on Friday administering to the Singles Scavenger Hunt, so I occupied Nicole’s house until my world traveler arrived, so I could bring our precious cargo back.  On the four hour ride home, Kyle kept rattling off trivia regarding the Bahamas.  “Aunt Heather, do you know how someone can become a citizen of the Bahamas?” (one is to purchase a house on the island) and “Aunt Heather, did you know they don’t pay taxes?” and “Aunt Heather they only lost eight people with the last hurricane, so it’s really not that dangerous.”  Yep for most of the ride, Kyle was simply spouting off facts and figures, mostly about the Bahamas and some regarding NASA.  That’s my Kyle!

Week of Fun Cruise 6-10-15 Aunt Heather Piper

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Kyle insisted on meeting the captain of their cruise ship. Aunt Nikki, Kyle & the Captain. 6/2015

While sitting in Nicole’s living room, listening to the two reminisce about their trip, I was reminded just how much Kyle is like me.  Apparently, while waiting to take the elevator, they had to, well… wait.  Then, the elevator stopped at every level before arriving at their room.  Patience wasn’t strong with Kyle.  As the story goes, Kyle made my sister, who has an aversion to exercise, take the steps.  The agreement was, if it was more than two floors they’d take the elevator, if less the steps.  Now that’s my Kyle!  In general I usually take the steps, a habit Kyle has certainly picked up from me.  It’s that little extra effort that can make a world of difference to a person’s health.  While Nicole was commenting about the steps, I jumped into the conversation to defend Kyle, reminding Aunt Nikki that taking the steps was a wise choice considering all the food consumed.

Nicole said Kyle literally ate a burger a day, and treated himself to an ice-cream a day throughout the trip.  When bringing this fun fact to light,  Kyle gave me an ornery look as if saying “Ya Aunt Heather, I ate whatever I wanted and not healthy.”  I smiled and said, “Good for you buddy, I’m glad you enjoyed yourself.  That’s what vacations are all about.  I’m glad you got some protein in your system and not all sweets.”  He seemed pleased with himself.

There’s no doubt Nicole and Kyle had a blast and created memories for a lifetime.  Like I’ve always told Kyle, I want him to take every opportunity to travel and see the world, explore every inch and enjoy life.

During our ride back, Kyle mentioned that he could live in the Bahamas.  I’d visit him, but that’s about it.  That comment kind of surprised me, since Kyle doesn’t like being in the sun, and hates the heat, and really hates to sweat.  Who knows, maybe the Bahamas will be his favorite vacation spot.

On a somewhat side note, while driving home with Kyle I looked down to see he changed his iPhone cover.  What is it?  The NASA logo.  I guess he did have a great time and was very influenced by his experiences!  After pointing out the case and telling him it was nice (it really is), I told him about his Aunt Nikki’s childhood obsession about working for NASA.  He seemed intrigued, yet I’m sensing he picked up on this little known fact during their visit to Florida.

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Kennedy Space Center. NASA 6/10/15

The annual tradition of Aunt Nikki’s and Kyle’s Week of Fun has been in existence since Kyle was a small tyke, growing in wow factor, mileage and expense year-over-year.  I hope it never stops and always continues for those two!  Personally, I love hearing the stories.  Wonder what next year will bring?

 

 

posted by auntheather in Common Sense,Education & Learning,Family,Milestone,Observation & Imagination,Patience,Reminiscing,Thrill of the Hunt Scavenger Hunts,Travels,Video Games & Games and have No Comments
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